First customers sought at air show for China-made large aircraft

13:56, November 15, 2010      

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After two years of research and development, the Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China, Ltd. (COMAC) is finally looking for the first buyers of its domestically-made C919 large aircraft.

COMAC disclosed on Nov. 14 that it will sign collective large passenger aircraft user agreements to determine which company will be the first customers for the C919 large passenger aircraft at the upcoming China International Aviation and Aerospace Exhibition to be opened on Nov. 16 in Zhuhai,

COMAC did not disclose the names of the C919's first customers, but reporters have learned three major state-owned airlines are expected to sign relevant agreements with COMAC at Zhuhai Air show. Earlier, Air China, China Eastern Airlines and China Southern Airlines participated in discussions about China-made large aircraft development and the needs of the users together with the Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China under the coordination of the Civil Aviation Administration of China.

Currently, domestically-made COMAC has completed economic and technical solution demonstrations and the overall design demonstration for the C919 as well as the development of the three prototypes (engineering prototype, digital prototypes and display prototype). Also the body structure and the choice of domestic and international system suppliers have basically been completed, the research of seven major fuselage samples has also been carried out, and it is about to enter the project-development phase.

Under the plan, the domestically-made C919 aircraft is expected to make its maiden flight in 2014 and be delivered in 2016. At present, COMAC has established a close working relationship with nine domestic fuselage suppliers and 17 leading international suppliers, and it has set up 14 joint ventures with international suppliers and domestic enterprises.

Currently, the Chinese aviation industry's transport capability growth rate is not keeping up with demand growth rate, and the domestic airlines have plans to order more new aircraft. According to Boeing's forecasts, China will need 4,330 new aircraft over the next 20 years. The fleet will expand to three times the current size and become the largest airplane market outside the United States.

At present, aircraft manufacturing giants Airbus and Boeing have dominated China's large passenger aircraft market. Recently, during President Hu Jintao's visit to France, China's airlines signed the order agreement for 102 Airbus aircraft in Paris, France, including 66 new orders, which are 50 A320 Family aircraft, six A330 aircraft and 10 A350XWB wide-body aircraft. Another 36 A330 aircraft orders were confirmations of previous orders.

In the Zhuhai air show, a 1:1 display sample of the C919 large passenger aircraft (fuselage front) and the cockpit simulator will be displayed to the public from the morning of Nov. 16 onwards at Hall One (International Pavilion). The ARJ21-700 regional aircraft, of which China owns the intellectual property rights, will also make show flight for the first time at this air show.

COMAC will have a 1,500 square-meter stand at this year's Zhuhai show, which runs from Nov. 16 to Nov. 21. The event will feature about 600 exhibitors, including Boeing, Airbus, Rolls-Royce Group, Plc. and Honeywell International Inc., according to the organizers. China's J-10 fighter jet, Bombardier Inc. business jets and Airbus's A380 will be among the roughly 70 planes on display.

A large aircraft has been the goal of China's industrial planners for decades. The C919 will go head to head with the popular Boeing 737 and Airbus A320. Aviation is one of a dozen or so areas of advanced technology, including renewable energy, in which China intends to become a global player. Among the Chinese public, the C919 has taken on a significance just short of the U.S. effort to put a man on the moon.

China is already a major assembler and parts supplier for some of the world's best-known aircraft. Airbus' A320s reach their final assembly in the northern port city of Tianjin. Half of Boeing's fleet of 12,000 airplanes includes components made in China. About 600,000 Chinese workers are employed in aerospace, about as many as in the United States.

According to COMAC, currently domestic and international planned purchase orders and contract orders for ARJ21-700 aircraft have reached a total of orders for 240 aircraft, and the company is heading toward getting certificate of airworthiness and early delivery.

By Huang Beibei, People's Daily Online


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