ZHUHAI, China and MOSCOW—United Aircraft Corp. (UAC) and Comac are targeting a 10% advantage in operating costs over aircraft that will compete with their planned 280-seat widebody aircraft.
Adopting a conservative development schedule, the Russian and Chinese companies have pushed out the target for entry into service to probably 2027, about two years later than previously intended.
Registration in Shanghai of the their joint company, apparently marking the beginning of full-scale development, will occur this year or in the first quarter of 2017, according to slightly conflicting statements by the partners.
They plan that UAC will build the wing, which will be of composite material, while Comac makes the fuselage, using aluminum and composite, said Yuri Slyusar, president of the Russian company. Final assembly will be Shanghai, the home of Comac.
The initial version of what has been provisionally called the Long-Range Wide-Body Commercial Aircraft (LRWBCA) will be powered by a Rolls-Royce or General Electric engine, Slyusar told Aviation Daily. A Russian engine, the United Engine Co. (UEC)PD-35, should follow around 2030.
A preliminary design has been agreed upon. The proportions of a model unveiled at Airshow China, held Nov. 1–6 here, show that a cabin width for nine-abreast economy seating, which appeared in early design studies, has been retained (Aviation Daily, Sept. 28, 2015). Range will be 12,000 km (7,500 mi.).
For the targeted 10% advantage in operating costs, UAC does not identify the baseline competitor, but it is presumably the Airbus A330-900.
Almost all the advantage will come from superior structural and aerodynamic efficiency, since UAC expects the chosen turbofan will have about the same technology level as the engines in the latest Airbus and Boeing types. So it looks like the gain in efficiency will, above all, come from the composite wing.
UAC and Comac have become steadily more conservative in their scheduling for the development. In 2014, when a formerly vague plan for the aircraft was becoming firmer, the target for first delivery was 2023–25. By early 2015, it had become 2025. Now it has moved out by two years, only partly because of a delay in launch.
The development period is set at around 10 years, which longer than any manufacturer has allowed for developing a commercial jet. Slyusar says “We will try to shorten this process by maybe one or two years.” The first flight should be made seven years after program launch.
An imprecise schedule discussed last year implied that the companies thought they needed nine years for development. If the project is launched into full-scale development in 2017, then the LRWBCA would fly in 2024 and enter service around 2027.
Work is to be shared equally. Each side can allocate its 50% between its domestic companies and outsiders, the industry source said. Suppliers of all systems are to be elected by 2018, Slyusar said.
Russian avionics specialist Kret would like to supply the communications, navigation and surveillance system and the air traffic management system, a senior manager of that company said. It may also build part of the flight control system.
The clear risk to the LRWBCA program is relations between the partner countries, especially Russia, could worsen to the point that the supply of systems from other countries could be blocked by sanctions. Foreign systems, notably engines, are needed to make the type competitive.
Slyusar played down the risk of supplies being blocked. “This 100% a civil aircraft,” he said. “That is why we don’t expect that any sanctions and any geopolitical risks [would affect] this product.” UAC is encouraging suppliers to the Irkut MC-21 and Sukhoi Superjet 100 programs to stick with the company.