China's Comac Joins Commercial Passenger Plane Industry

      June 30, 2011 12:27

      The Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China has joined the global market for commercial passenger jets so far controlled by Airbus and Boeing.

      Jim Albaugh of Boeing's civil jet division said the days of the "duopoly" are over, and French business daily Les Echos also noted China's growth in the industry in a recent article by saying China is emerging as the No. 3 aerospace power.

      ◆ Competitive Price

      Comac has already signed a memorandum of understanding with the biggest European budget carrier Ryanair for 200 C919 midsize passenger planes.

      Under the MOU signed at the Paris air show on June 20-26, Ryanair will include Chinese-made passenger planes in a fleet of new jets it will buy after 2013. Ryanair promised to send experts to Comac to help the manufacturer develop 200-seat midsize passenger planes.

      Ryanair had been one of Boeing's biggest customers but apparently switched to Comac because the Chinese firm offered much lower prices.

      China's ARJ21-700 90-seater passenger plane made its maiden flight to Shanghai in November 2008. Since then, China has won more than 340 orders for the aircraft thanks to the competitive price.

      A stewardess poses in Comac's C919 passenger jet at the Paris air show on June 21. /Bloomberg

      ◆ Boeing, Airbus Jitters

      The C919 is a product of Chinese plan to make inroads into the 200-seater midsize market led by Boeing and Airbus. Comac plans to conduct the first flight of the C919 in 2014 and start commercial flights in 2016.

      China struck a big deal with General Electric in January to develop a communications and navigation system for the C919 in exchange for supply of bullet train technology to GE. 

      A Comac subsidiary is also implementing another ambitious project to develop engines for mid-size and large commercial jets, which it claims will rival the Boeing 737 and the Airbus A320. It is also developing large commercial planes such as the C929 with 290 seats and the C939 with 390 seats.

      Comac has a solid domestic market that is in itself enough to sustain a commercial plane manufacturer.

      But with its current capacity, Comac can produce less than 50 C919s per year over the next few years.

      Boeing and Airbus are apparently worried by the rapid pace with which China is catching up and are developing fuel-efficient commercial jets to beat it.

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