By the Leeham News Team
China’s goal for C919
Beijing wants to shift to supplying its single-aisle jet needs to the COMAC C919 by the end of this decade, according to a person familiar with the situation. But ramping production up to meet future demand is difficult under the best of circumstances.
With Western-built suppliers a key to the development of the C919, including the CFM LEAP 1C engines, there is little chance the domestic industry can shift exclusively to domestic suppliers on the scale required in the time desired.
Regardless of the feasibilities, these goals are bad news for Boeing—and most likely for Airbus, too.
Boeing’s dilemma with China is well known. Aside from the geopolitical challenges between China and the US and the well-known slow return to service of the in-country 737 MAXes, Boeing can’t deliver 138 new-build MAXes to China.
Deliveries are blocked for the aforementioned geopolitical considerations. Beijing’s three-year-long zero-COVID policies cratered domestic demand. With the policies recently lifted, passenger traffic is building but it is still well below pre-pandemic levels.
But that’s not all.
The viability of many airlines within China is iffy. The Big Three Airlines—Air China, China Eastern, and China Southern—are on solid financial footing. But smaller, independent, or locally supported airlines are not. Beijing requires them to prove they can financially support previously placed orders and prove they can successfully support taking airplanes on a one-by-one basis. If not, Beijing blocks delivery.
This is another reason Boeing is sitting on its inventory of 138 airplanes. But Airbus is increasingly affected, too. There are A320neo family members in storage that are undelivered. And, according to one person familiar with the situation, Airbus faces delivery refusals of up to 100 airplanes in the near term. One Chinese airline is rejecting nearly a dozen A320neos from Airbus and lessors, some already built in its specifications.
Airbus last year won an order from China for 292 aircraft. The fate of some of these orders may be up in the air, given Beijing’s prove-you-can-use-it approach. Airbus has an A320 assembly plant in Tianjin capable of building eight A320s a month. Just how this fits into China’s goal of self-sufficiency remains to be seen.
But toward the end of this decade, there might be a major shift in China’s procurement. Boeing already appears a loser in this. Airbus may see its position seriously undermined. Skepticism about shifting to the C919 is huge. But a major shift is coming and there’s little Boeing or Airbus will be able to do about it.
Russia wants to use the confiscated Western airliners until 2030, reports Russian media.
“Russian carriers Western-made airliners may ‘easily fly’ until 2030 provided that work is done to maintain their flight worthiness, Head of the Federal Agency for Air Transport Alexander Neradko said,” reports the news outlet Russian Aviation.