It is time to get your Made-in-China jokes out again. China’s state-owned commercial manufacturer rolled out its first jet plane this week and now aims to enter the trillion dollar industry of airliners where Boeing and Airbus are currently the market leaders by a huge margin. Well, they have made it, but who would want to buy them? Their own carriers probably!
China hates nothing more than to lose money over foreign exchange. China has been heavily reliant on the American and European manufacturers and now it aims to break free of their global stranglehold by making its own planes. The C919 seems a decent aircraft and now it remains to be seen whether it is airworthy or not!
The jet was unveiled by the Chinese Commercial Aircraft Corporation in a hanger in China’s Pudong International Airport. The impressive ceremony was attended by 4,000 state officials belonging to the military, bureaucracy and the Communist party itself. According to one of the engineers, this aircraft was supposed to be a part of a major push for the local industry to overcome the trade deficit and slowly become a regional leader in sales too. The role of this company is important for the future of Chinese industry since the ruling Communist party aims to transform China from an outsource-based manufacturing economy to a world leader in innovation and technology.
The manufacturer of C919 commonly referred to as Comac claims that it has received orders from 21 customers and they have ordered 517 aircraft from them. If accurate, it would mean a significant boost for the local aviation industry. Most of these orders, as expected are from Chinese carriers and companies, but one is also from GE Capital Aviation Services. China also wants to enter the smaller passenger jet industry with the ARJ-21 made by another state company. First two ARJ-21s have already been delivered to the Chinese clients and now the company gears up for some heavy manufacturing.
Jokes aside, C919 seems to be a pretty convincing plane as the engine and avionics are sourced from world-renowned Western companies and foreign-Chinese joint ventures. One of the main problems of any emerging aircraft industry is that it just cannot match the quality and safety of the big players due to their competitor’s vast experience of the field. The Chinese companies have rectified this by entering into a partnership for many of these components so that eventually, they will manufacture on their own.
Even if they are able to meet their own share of planes will be a big achievement as Boeing has forecasted that the Chinese will require more than 5,580 planes over the next two decades totalling a mammoth 780 billion dollars. Since a huge chunk of these planes will belong to the state carriers, the government will be able to exercise control and force them to buy indigenous planes. Moreover, the Chinese manufacturing juggernaut’s capability will be improved immeasurably with the success of these planes. So, it is not secret that the Chinese government is desperate to promote local commercial aviation industry. All eyes will be on the C919 next year when it will undertake a potential flight. It is expected to enter service in 2019.