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Paris Day 2: China & Russia Split

There’s a unique class of air show stories that come to life entirely by coincidence. Walking through the halls before 7 AM, The Air Current team rolled past an empty Comac booth. Two large models — one ARJ21 and one C919 — punctuated the stand. In years past, Comac had a third on display,  the CR929, its Sino-Russian joint venture on a widebody program.

A widebody wasn’t entirely absent: on one of the booth’s walls was a rendering of the aircraft formerly known as the CR929. Howard Slutsken, who handles both editorial and operations for us, noticed that “Comac Wide-Body” now featured in a spot where CR929 was once painted on the tail and fuselage. Russia’s United Aircraft Corporation’s logo was also conspicuously absent, leaving only the Comac logo.

Related: Comac drops Russia from CR929 program

Had Russia departed from this geopolitically significant industry effort? Whatever the reason, our initial report presented UAC’s absence as indicative of the inherent sensitivity of “flying the Russian flag” at an aerospace and defense event in France at a time when international sanctions forced their expulsion from the western aviation world order.

After the initial publication, we started pounding the pavement to understand what this meant. With unusual speed, one key industry player told TAC that it had been recently notified by Comac that the widebody “will be a Chinese only program going forward.” Even though a C929 (no R anymore) poses little direct threat to Airbus and Boeing for the foreseeable future, it is a development that is laden with geopolitics and even as China and Russia embrace, the new distance on this flagship aerospace effort opens a new chapter for both.

During the week of the 54th Paris Air Show, The Air Current editorial team is publishing a daily email newsletter from here in Le Bourget. As part of our coverage, both our Dispatches and Airflow newsfeed are also available to enjoy without a subscription. All of our scoops and long-form reporting are only available with a subscription to TAC.

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