Russia and China are reportedly close to selecting a location for the Chinese-Russian commercial aircraft consortium (CRAIC) CR929 program’s engineering center, an issue that has been delaying progress in development of the widebody airliner.

Moscow seems to have finally persuaded Beijing that the center should be located in Russia.

The Vedomosty newspaper quoted Russia’s minister of industry and trade Denis Manturov on Sept. 4 as saying: “In September, we expect approval from the Chinese side to register the engineering center in Russia and to grant it the authority of CR929 designer.”

The decision should clear the way for the CRAIC partners—Russia’s United Aircraft Corp. (UAC) and the Commercial Aircraft Corp. of China (COMAC)—to settle a plan for achieving airworthiness certification for the CR929.

The engineering center will be a separate legal entity that will hold the type certificate, a Russian industry source said.

Russia’s Federal Air Transport Agency and the Civil Aviation Administration of China agreed last week to set up a joint working group on CR929 type certification.

The program’s chief designer from the Russian side, Maxim Litvinov, said earlier that definition of the certification strategy will allow the program to finish the selection of the key suppliers, a process that began when the first requests for proposals were issued at the end of 2017. Along with the completion of the draft design, this would allow the program to pass the Gate 3 development stage, Litvinov said.

CRAIC issued the requests for proposals later than expected, other industry sources said. Its selection of suppliers has been even more delayed.

The program is headquartered in Shanghai, where the aircraft’s final assembly will be located. If the engineering center is located in Russia, the Chinese side may host a branch office in Shanghai, Litvinov said.

The baseline CR929-600 will carry 280 passengers in a three-class configuration. It will have a range of 12,000 km (7,400 mi.). The first flight is now planned for 2023–25, with deliveries expected to start in 2025-2027. According to UAC CEO Yury Slyusar, the program has already collected what he calls “soft orders” for 200 aircraft.

Maxim Pyadushkin,