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President of AVIC: US invests $100 bn in aircraft engines, China only $80.6 mln

(People's Daily Online)    13:29, May 19, 2015
The nose section of C919 China-made large passenger aircraft has been delivered to Pu Dong assembly base of the Commercial Aircraft Corp. of China (COMAC) in Shanghai, east China, Oct. 15, 2014. It's about to enter the docking stage, and to be assembled with front fuselage. China completed the assembly of the nose part on Jul. 31, the 6.6-meter-long nose, consisting of 3,200 components, uses a large amount of advanced composite materials like aluminum-lithium alloy and titanium alloy. The first C919 airliner is expected to make a maiden flight by the end of 2015. (Source: Xinhua)

A roadmap for the future of manufacturing, the "Made in China 2025" plan, has won approval from the State Council, China's cabinet. The plan will focus on upgrading the manufacturing sector in order to improve the capacity for innovation ability, integrate informatization, and promote industrialization.

"We generally need about three decades or so to complete the transformation from a manufacturing nation to a manufacturing power", said Guan Qiao, a member of the Chinese Academy of Engineering. The plan is the program of action for the first decade.

The obvious question during the process is which industries will become the emerging sectors. High-speed or large passenger aircraft? And how will "made in China" put aside the image of "copycatting, cheap, and poor quality"?

"The argument that the competitiveness of "made-in-China" products relies only on low cost no longer holds water," said Lin Zuoming, President of Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC), during the Dialogue program of CCTV on May 3. The "Made in China 2025" plan is closely related to the development of Internet technology, he added.

Lin gave an example of labor-cost advantage to explain this. He said that in past, a nine-year compulsory education would provide an adequate qualification for the low to medium industries. But nowadays a worker with an education only up to junior high school is not qualified for work in high-end manufacturing. But on the other hand, once robots replace workers on production lines, the cost will get even lower.

As well as the change in labor cost, with the development of information technology, the production mode in manufacturing companies is changing. Nowadays, the design of all geometric forms can be completed first on the computer, which greatly improves the production efficiency of aircraft.

Lin took the J-10 fighter jet as an example. He said it took twelve years from setting up the project, through research and development, to maiden flight, and another six years to finalize the design. But we spent only a little over five years to finish the process and achieve the first flight of 200-tonne class heavy military airlifter, which is more complicated than the J-10.

Information technology has changed the course of design and manufacture of aircraft, but there is still a gap between China and the most advanced countries, said Zhang Guoxin, vice general manager of AVIC. The design of the Boeing 777 was completed without drawings 10 to 15 years ago.

Furthermore, "Made in China" will face new difficulties during the upgrading process. Lin said shortage of funding is the major problem. Data from the early 1950s to the beginning of this century shows that the United States has invested more than 100 billion US dollars in basic research into aircraft engines, while China has invested only 80.6 million US dollars.

In March, 2007, China initiated a project to develop a domestic large passenger aircraft industry. In 2014, docking and fuselage, airfoil and empennage were completed for China's homegrown passenger jet, the C919 - all made in China. But the "heart" of the plane, the engine, still needs to be imported.

Lin thinks the development of engines is an experiment-heavy technology and it needs adequate investment to experiment. The more investment you inject, the quicker the technology will mature. And it has a long life cycle, generally 50 years.

According to Lin, the assembly of C919 will be completed this year. 

This article was edited and translated from 《林左鸣:美研发动机花千亿美元 中国花5亿人民币》, source: gongdanews.com


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