ZHUHAI, China (Reuters) – General Electric (GE.N) and Rolls Royce (RR.L) are the two finalists to supply engines for a new long-haul jet developed by a Russian-Chinese joint venture that aims eventually to switch to a Sino-Russian engine, a chief designer of the aircraft said.
Russia’s United Aircraft Corporation and the Commercial Aircraft Corp of China Ltd kickstarted full-scale development of the CR929 widebody jet program last year, to build an aircraft that can muscle into a lucrative market now dominated by Boeing Co’s (BA.N) 787 and Airbus SE’s (AIR.PA) A350 jets.
“We are now choosing one of two suppliers, General Electric’s GEnX and Rolls Royce’s Trent 7000,” Maxim Litvinov, one of the two chief designers, told Reuters on Wednesday, adding that the venture planned to make a decision by the first half of next year.
“But right now Russia’s United Engine Corporation and the Aero Engine Corporation of China (AECC) are also cooperating on creating a new engine,” he said, on the sidelines of Airshow China, where it unveiled a life-size model of the CR929’s cabin.
Priority when choosing suppliers will be given to Russian and Chinese firms, and then to Western firms with Russian or Chinese partners’ joint ventures, he said, adding that the basic principle should be that the firms offer competitive proposals.
In addition, current trade tensions between China and the United States, and U.S. sanctions against Russia, could be factored into the selection process, Litvinov said.
“Of course, this is a great risk, and that makes us take that into consideration and we do that,” he said.
“But in spite of all this, the potential suppliers are looking for some solutions how to avoid the situation and find any way to cooperate with us in our interests and in their own interests.”
He expected to receive the Sino-Russian engine by the end of the next decade and the venture would like the engine to have a thrust range of 35 tonnes, he added.
The venture, China-Russia Commercial Aircraft International Corp (CRAIC), said in May it had received proposals from seven foreign and local companies to supply the jet’s engine.
Litvinov said the joint venture had so far agreed on technical requirements and aspects such as after-sales support, with a total of 50 requests for proposal packages to be issued to prospective suppliers.
“All these packages will be delivered by the end of this year,” he said, adding that the joint venture intends for the plane to take its first flight between 2023 and 2025.
Reporting by Brenda Goh; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman and Clarence Fernandez