COMAC Pressing Ahead With C929 Widebody

By Spyros Georgilidakis | March 26, 2024

Chinese aircraft manufacturer COMAC is at the “detailed design stage” of its C929 widebody airliner, following up on the single-aisle C919.

COMAC’s C919 was the star of this year’s Singapore airshow. International sales of the aircraft have yet to come, although Brunei-based (but Chinese-owned) startup GallopAir has ordered 15 aircraft, plus 15 options.

CR929, or C929? Photo: UAC

The C919, which closely resembles the Airbus A320 in size, is COMAC’s second aircraft, after the regional ARJ21 – which, in turn, resembles an MD-95/B717. COMAC had started preliminary work on the C929, its next design, over a decade ago.

But from around 2012 onward, this design became known as the CRAIC CR929. This was because the Chinese manufacturer planned to make it in partnership with Russia’s UAC. Unlike the all-metal C919, the widebody aircraft would have a composite wing. UAC has experience in composites and would take care of the wing design.

A mockup of the plane’s nose section, when it was still called CR929. Photo: CRAIC

COMAC Going Alone With The C929

These partnership plans started to unravel after Russia’s renewed invasion of Ukraine in 2022. UAC and COMAC didn’t formally announce a “breakup”, but a model of the aircraft, re-re-named C929, was present at the Singapore Airshow.

COMAC Pressing Ahead With C929 Widebody
A C929 (named as such) model on display at this year’s Singapore Airshow. Photo: S5A-0043, CC BY-SA 4.0

And this week, a COMAC executive offered some more details on the development timeline of the C929. The aircraft is in its “detailed design stage”, and the first fuselage section should be ready by September 2027. The 280-400-seat design should be a competitor for the Boeing 787 and Airbus A350.

It is not clear if COMAC is transitioning to a more conventional wing design for the C929, or if it plans to develop a composite wing of its own. Also, it’s unclear whether or not the manufacturer still plans to launch the aircraft with western engines, like the C919. When Russia was still a partner in the project, a Russian engine was also an option.

COMAC Pressing Ahead With C929 Widebody
Photo: S5A-0043, CC BY-SA 4.0

However, a Chinese engine is also in the works. In theory, given the delays in the C929 program, COMAC could decide to launch the aircraft with a homegrown engine. But this is a widebody, that would need certification from international aviation authorities, to be operationally viable. This would come more easily with a proven engine – if COMAC can secure it.


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