China / Society

Suppliers wanted for wide-body passenger airplane

By AGENCE FRANCEPRESSE in Shanghai (China Daily) Updated: 2014-11-08 06:31

China is seeking suppliers to develop its own wide-body passenger plane over the next decade, according to industry executives, expanding its ambitions and rivalry with Boeing and Airbus.

The proposed aircraft - tentatively called the C929 - would be the State-backed Commercial Aircraft Corp of China's largest, say suppliers that have held discussions with the firm.

It would be a substantial advance on the smaller 158-to 168-seater narrow-body C919 it is developing and the 78-to 90-seater ARJ21 regional jet that is undergoing test flights.

The goal is for the C929, which could carry several hundred passengers at a time on journeys across Asia, to start operating after 2020, possibly in 2023.

The corporation's ambitions will be paraded at the country's premier air show, which opens on Tuesday in Zhuhai, Guangdong province.

The technological challenges China faces in building its own passenger plane are formidable, with some observers comparing them to the difficulty of sending a mission to the moon.

But the government considers that developing a passenger aircraft industry is a national priority that would vault the country into an elite club of just a handful of nations.

In May, China and Russia signed an agreement to develop what Chinese State media called the "big plane". The corporation's strategic partner for the C929 is Russia's United Aircraft Corp.

"Russia and China have been working together, figuring out things. Now they're ready to start talking and getting ideas from suppliers," said Briand Greer, president of aerospace for Asia-Pacific at US firm Honeywell, which provides components and systems for the C919 and ARJ21.

Industry sources said the Chinese corporation is floating ideas about the plane's design before making formal information requests to prepare a tendering process.

One possibility for the new aircraft, which will have two aisles, is a plane capable of flying within Asia for journeys of up to about five hours, industry officials said, but not for intercontinental flights of 12 to 14 hours.

Such a concept would compete with the planned regional version of the Airbus A330, they said, which will enter service early next year. Planes in the A330 family can carry 200 to 400 passengers.

The corporation did not respond to requests for comment.

The C919, which has a range of up to 5,555 km, is scheduled to make its first test flight at the end of next year.

Hot Topics