Viewpoint

Russia and China’s widebody JV gathers momentum

Reports on Tuesday (September 22) suggest Russia and China’s joint venture on a widebody aircraft is gathering momentum with the two countries’ governments expected to sign a joint development agreement by the end of 2015.

According to China Daily, Yury Slyusar, president of state-owned Russian OEM United Aircraft Corporation (UAC), said the agreement firming up the memorandum of understanding signed in May 2014 would initially outline profit sharing and responsibilities, with technical requirements to be decided on by March next year.

Working with Chinese OEM Commercial Aircraft Corp of China (Comac), it is already common knowledge that both parties are thinking big. Russian news agency Sputnik said the two countries plan to invest up to $13bn in the developing the aircraft.

What’s more, not content with just selling the aircraft to customers in Russia and China, UAC confirmed last month that it aims to sell the aircraft to other countries.

While Russia and China have a history of developing aircraft, doing this together in a new venture will come with obvious challenges.

One lies in entering a market dominated by the Boeing and Airbus duopoly. The aircraft, which will carry between 210 and 350 passengers depending on the seating configuration, will go into competition with Boeing’s 777 and 787 and Airbus’ A330 and A350.

Persuading countries to buy the new widebody outside of Russia and China could also pose another obstacle.
Looking closer to home, demand on the domestic front is certainly there, if Boeing’s recent Market Outlook 2015 is anything to go by.

In the forecast, the OEM said China is expected to surpass the US as the world’s largest aircraft market within the next 20 years, with demand for 6,330 new aircraft worth an estimated $950bn in the next two decades.

The number of aircraft going into Russia over the next decade stands at nearly 10,000 – a figure expected to grow further past then.

With the long-term plan to get a widebody aircraft in the skies by 2025, your correspondent will certainly be watching this project with interest.

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