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Jumbo jet project boon to suppliers
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07:51, August 27, 2009

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Foreign aviation suppliers are competing for business opportunities arising from China's plans to build a jumbo jet.

The nation is set to unveil a model for the commercial jet in two weeks.

Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China Ltd (COMAC), which is in charge of the domestic jumbo jet project, will present a miniature of the homemade passenger jet C919 at the Asian Aerospace International Expo and Congress in Hong Kong between Sept 8 and 10, the expo organizer said.

It will be the debut appearance of C919, it said. For the first homemade jumbo jet, the letter C represents China as well as COMAC, the first 9 implies forever in Chinese culture, and 19 means the jet will have 190 seats.

As COMAC is pushing ahead with the homegrown passenger aircraft project, it has also accelerated talks to pick global partners for the program.

The company has been intending to invite global cooperative partners to participate in its development plan.

Wu Guanghui, chief designer of the program and deputy general manager of the Shanghai-based COMAC, said earlier that the aircraft will be designed and assembled in Shanghai, but will source parts and components globally, which is a model adopted by the two dominant aircraft groups, Boeing and Airbus.

He said his company will choose international suppliers through bidding, but priority will go to foreign suppliers that design and manufacture products with domestic companies in China.

The work of choosing suppliers is expected to be completed this year, Wu said in March.

During the past 40 days, executives from major global aviation suppliers have paid intensive visits to COMAC, after the latter issued the invitation for tender on July 10 for engines and airborne equipment to be used on C919.

Visitors included top managers of Honeywell, HP, Zodiac, Liebherr and Moog, according to the COMAC website reports.

Because foreign suppliers are encouraged to enter into partnerships with Chinese manufacturers, Goodrich Corp made an attempt on Aug 12 to sign contracts with Xi'an Aircraft International Corp (XAIC) to form its first two overseas joint ventures, to manufacture landing gear and engine compartment components.

"We believe they will give us an opportunity, as joint ventures, for both XAIC and Goodrich to participate in the C919," Goodrich President and CEO Marshall Larsen said.

Meanwhile, China is speeding up independent development of aero-engines, so that China-made engines can power C919 as soon as possible.

The first domestically developed engine for C919 is expected to be ready in 2016, and efforts will follow to develop a series of aero-engines, Wang Zhilin, deputy general manager of AVIC Commercial Aircraft Engine Co Ltd (ACAE), said yesterday.

ACAE General Manager Zhang Jian said the company has completed its engine development plan, which is being examined by experts and will soon be delivered to the State Council for approval.

The Guangzhou-based 21st Century Business Herald reported yesterday that the C919 project could bring nearly $200 billion to suppliers by 2050.

Citing industry information, the report said China needs 1,600 new jumbo jets, worth $150 billion to $180 billion, by 2020.

By 2050, China will need more than 3,000 new planes, which, together with other smaller aircraft and freight planes, will be worth $350 billion to $400 billion.

Zhou Jisheng, deputy designer of the C919, was quoted as saying that the parts on bidding, such as engines and airborne equipment, could amount to 50 percent of the cost for manufacturing a jumbo plane in the case of the Boeing 787.

Therefore, suppliers could get nearly $200 billion from the C919 project, the newspaper said.

The homemade jet has been set to take its maiden flight in 2014, and acquire airworthiness approval and be delivered to customers in 2016. COMAC will develop cargo carriers and business jets in the future.

China has been the world's fastest-growing aircraft market. According to statistics released by the Civil Aviation Administration of China, more than 193 million passengers traveled by air last year, compared to 186 million in 2007.

The combined fleet of the country's air companies has risen to 1,961 from 1,591 civil aircraft in 2007.

Source: China Daily

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