Tag Archives: Airbus

New ABC Of Aerospace

The C919, a 190-seat commercial jet, won’t take to the air for at least half a decade, and not enter service for at least a couple of years after that, but it will be the largest home-built airliner to be constructed in China, and will mark a significant advance for an industry Beijing has earmarked as a national champion and global competitor. Models of the plane, to be built by Shanghai-based Comac, an acronym for Commercial Aircraft Corp. of China and part of the state-owned Aviation Industry Corp. of China (Avic), have gone on show in Hong Kong. (It was announced in March.)

Comac already builds a 90-seat jet, the ARJ-21, for which it says it has around 200 orders on its books. The new jet liner is potentially competitive bad news down the road for Airbus and Boeing, the two global aerospace giants who see the Chinese market as one of their great hopes for the future, and whose A320 and 737 models now dominate the regional jet section of the market. The overall Chinese market for commercial aircraft is forecast to expand fivefold over the next 20 years. That means orders for more than 2,000 aircraft to scrap over, as China expands it aerospace industry’s focus from military to civilian. Air China, China Southern Airlines and China Eastern Airlines can all be expected to do their patriotic duty.

It would be rash to assume that the Chinese plane maker will stay third in the trinity of Airbus, Boeing and Comac. Equally, the challenge shouldn’t be underestimated. Comac is starting from scratch, having been set up only last year with the purpose of developing China’s first airliners. It has given itself eight to 10 years to develop the C919, compared to the six it typically takes the more practiced Airbus or Boeing. It will need to rely on foreign-made engines, avionics and other components for its early models as it learns to build its own, and perfects its aviation grade aluminum and composites. It will also have to learn how to get its airliners internationally certified if it wants global sales. The ARJ-21 isn’t yet certified in the U.S. for example.

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Sarkozy Super Salesman

Areva, the French nuclear power plant builder, has at least got is contract to construct two third-generation pressurized water reactors in Guangdong. Signing the $11.9 billion contract had been expected in July or August, but it has had to wait for the visit to China of new French president Nicholas Sarkozy.

It has been a good trip for French business. Airbus picked up a $17 billion order for 160 planes. Telecoms-equipment maker Alcatel-Lucent, engineering group Alstom and water and waste management company Suez also sealed deals in what Sarkozy called an “unprecedented” haul. (Details here, via Bloomberg.)

None of that stopped the French president calling on his hosts to revalue the yuan, address human rights issues in China and to take a more robust diplomatic role over Iran, Burma and the Sudan. But all he got in return on those issues was an invitation to attend next summer’s Olympic games in Beijing, a vague agreement on climate change — and a lot of euros for the 40 French business leaders accompanying him.

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