Can ‘Made in China 2025’ help turn the nation’s domestic aerospace industry into a world leader?

October 30, 2018


Dennis
Wong
China’s aviation industry is taking off and the country is on track to become the world’s largest aviation passenger market by 2022. It is estimated it will need more than 7,000 planes in the next 20 years. Meanwhile, Beijing has long held a dream to carry all those millions of passengers on planes made domestically, rather than by Boeing and Airbus

Under the ‘Made in China 2025’ industrial plan, Beijing is looking to create a domestic commercial aircraft industry which can develop, manufacture and export its own products thereby reducing its dependence on foreign suppliers

It is making progress, but the reliance on foreign suppliers continues to be an issue, particularly in the crucial field of engines, where some analysts put China 20 to 30 years behind the global leaders

Plane deliveries to China by region and type
(2016–2035, % forecast)

Sources: Airbus, Boeing

In pursuit of its goal, the government established the Shanghai-based Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China (Comac) in 2008 to challenge the decades-long duopoly of Airbus and Boeing. Production of the prototype C919, a commercial long-haul airliner developed and built in China, began in December 2011. However, the narrow-body jet is reliant on a number of foreign companies, including General Electric (GE) of the US, to supply key parts like the engine and avionics systems

Sourcing overseas

Chinese company
Foreign company Click for information
The C919 airliner uses many important parts from non-Chinese companies

The LEAP-1C engine is designed and produced overseas by CFM International, a joint venture between General Electric and Safran Aircraft Engines of France

Comac has orders and commitments from domestic airline carriers for over 800 C919s ahead of its roll-out. This means Comac will need to purchase at least 1,600 CFM-built LEAP engines


A / B. Blades and turbines are made of a carbon fibre and ceramic matrix composite for a much lighter and more heat-resistant engine. They are also highly resistant to damage

C. Twin annular premixing swirler (TAPS) combustor
Developed by GE, this lean-burning combustor dramatically reduces nitrogen oxide and other regulated gases to below today's regulatory limits. It also enhances durability


US company
Foreign company Click for information
Boeing planes are assembled in the US, and many of the important parts are produced domestically

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China's trade in aircraft engine parts
(US$ million)

Source: United Nations

The C919 finally rolls out



The differences

While it might not be an immediate threat, China's home-grown jetliner could compete with the Airbus A320 and Boeing 737 in the decades to come

How the C919 compares with the Boeing 737 and Airbus A320

Sources: Airbus, Boeing

A brief history of Chinese-made passenger aircraft

The C919 jet lands after maiden flight

Air traffic growth

Current projections indicate domestic airlines are on course to carry over 600 million passengers in 2018. Preliminary statistics show China-registered carriers flew 304 million passengers on domestic and international routes in the first half of this year, compared to 278 million in the first six months of 2017

The five fastest-growing markets
Annual additional airline passengers in 2036 compared to 2016 (forecast in billions)

Source: The International Transport Association

In 2017 more than 550 million domestic and international passengers flew in or out of China, a significant contribution to the record-breaking 4.1 billion passengers who flew on scheduled airline services globally last year

Passengers carried

Total domestic and international passengers using airlines registered to a country or place (in millions)


Sources: World Bank, IATA

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