Chinese jumbo aircraft company aiming for March take-off


(eTN) – China has set a March deadline to establish its first jumbo passenger aircraft company, as it moves to positions itself among countries technically capable of manufacturing large jets.

Huang Qiang, secretary general of the Commission of Science Technology and Industry for National Defense (CSTIND), told Xinhua on Monday that a director and a chief engineer of research would be appointed by then to make sure “the work goes as planned.”

Previously, Shanghai Securities News reported the start-up would only be responsible for the design and assembly of jumbo aircraft, while the production of components and parts would be left to other aviation enterprises. It was the latest development of the research project approved in principle by China’s cabinet, the State Council, last February. This was to make the country capable of building aircraft with a take-off weight of more than 100 tons, or planes with more than 150 seats.

Just before the New Year holiday, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao visited the Avic I Xi’an Aircraft Industry (Group) Company to give a pep talk on the manufacturing of jumbo jets. Last year, the company made China the fourth country to develop its own advanced fighter aircraft–the “Jian 10.”

During his talks with technicians, Wen emphasized a China-made jumbo aircraft as a “significant strategy” of the country. This would lift the country’s competence in the global market as a slew of technical breakthroughs, especially in engine, materials and electronic equipment, were to be made.

The maiden flight of the ARJII1, China’s first 90-seat regional jet, widely viewed as a step closer to jumbo jets, was scheduled for this year.

Both Avic I and Avic II, together with domestic airlines and government-controlled investment companies, would likely be the shareholders of the large passenger aircraft company.

The new start-up would only be responsible for the design and assembly of large aircraft while production of components and parts would still be left to other aviation enterprises, the Shanghai Security News reported, quoting a former expert with the Ministry of Science and Technology.

Being the leading aviation makers, both Avic I and Avic II have expressly shown their interests in large jets. “There are no rivals but only partners when it comes to jumbo jet manufacturing,” general manager of Avic I Lin Zongming has said.

Given that the Avic I has taken over the larger and better slice of assets from the former Aviation industries of China, industry analysts say Avic II might give up its civil aviation outfits such as airborne equipment production to Avic I so as to beef up the manufacturing capacity of the latter.

Another market guess is to take out the civil aviation business from both companies which also engage in military product manufacturing to establish a third company solely dealing with aircraft for civilian use.

With 240,000 employees and aggregate assets of more than 100 billion yuan (approximately US$13 billion), Avic I is the parent of 47 industrial enterprises, 31 research and development institutes, provides 90 percent of the aviation weaponry systems of the People’s Liberation Army and has produced over 15,000 aircraft in 20 projects, 50,000 aero-engines and more than 10,000 missiles, according to company statistics.

The smaller Avic II boasts a total asset of 31.5 billion yuan (approximately US$4 billion), with its aero production covering a wide rang of military and civilian vehicles including helicopters, trainers, general aircraft, unmanned aerial vehicles, engines and airborne equipment.

There is no official timetable for the set-up of the new large passenger aircraft company, but Shanghai-based China Business News revealed on Tuesday that March would be the earliest possible date.

Currently, only the United States, Russia, France, Germany, United Kingdom and Spain have the capability to build jumbo aircraft, with Boeing and Airbus taking a lion’s share of sales in the international market.