COMAC to sign key suppliers for C919 by June

Updated: 2012-02-15 11:05

(China Daily)

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HONG KONG - Commercial Aircraft Corp of China, the maker of the nation's first large passenger jet, the C919, expects to sign all key suppliers for the aircraft by June as it works toward a 2014 deadline for the jet's maiden flight.

On Tuesday, the company, also known as COMAC, named AVIC Landing Gear Advanced Manufacturing Co, Liebherr and Moog Inc as suppliers for the C919, according to a statement from the plane maker at the Singapore air show. All 33 major systems providers will be signed up in the first half, it said.

COMAC also expects to reach an agreement with Bombardier Inc within two months to secure the coopperation of the Canadian aircraft manufacturer on the jet's development, said Han Kecen, the Chinese aircraft company's vice-president, on Tuesday. The companies are both working on new aircraft as they try to break the grip of Airbus SAS and Boeing Co on the global market for single-aisle planes.

"China has invested huge money in the project and is determined to make it successful," said David Wei, an analyst with Shanghai Securities Co. "Domestic airlines and State-backed lessors are likely to keep placing orders."

COMAC won an order for 20 C919s from BOC Aviation PTE, the aircraft-leasing arm of Bank of China Ltd, the company said on Tuesday. The agreement raises orders and commitments for the plane to 235, COMAC said. BOC Aviation is the 11th customer for the plane.

Among the existing customers for the 168-seat plane, as many as 10 are State-backed Chinese companies, including the nation's big three airlines: Air China Ltd, China Southern Airlines Co and China Eastern Airlines Corp. The leasing arms of Industrial & Commercial Bank of China Ltd and Bank of Communications Co have also signed deals.

COMAC's only overseas customer so far is the leasing unit of General Electric Co. The company is also forming an avionics venture with COMAC's parent, Aviation Industry Corp of China.

State-owned COMAC has already signed up the engine maker CFM International Inc, a venture between General Electric Co and Safran SA, and Honeywell International Inc.

Bombardier separately said it continues to talk to COMAC for jet programs and the two companies may consider teaming up to manufacture planes. "These are all types of discussions we can undertake with COMAC," said Philippe Poutissou, Bombardier's vice-president of marketing, in an interview on Tuesday.

The Canadian company is developing the C-Series, which seats as many as 149, while COMAC is working on the larger C919. Montreal-based Bombardier had five teams working on the potential tie-up, it said last year.

COMAC hopes to have as many as 300 orders and commitments for the plane by the end of this year, Chief Designer Wu Guanghui told reporters on Tuesday.

The company is working on detailed designs of the plane after passing a preliminary technical review by the Chinese government in December. The C919 is due to make its first flight in 2014 and to enter service two years later, according to the schedule.

The jet will be 20 percent lighter and 10 percent cheaper than existing aircraft of similar size, as it will be built with composite materials and aluminum-lithium alloys, according to COMAC.

To meet its 2014 deadline, the Chinese company will probably have to assemble its first C919 within a year of completing the detailed designs, Shanghai Securities' Wei said. The plane maker may struggle to achieve this, given that Airbus and Boeing, which have more experience, usually take longer, he said.

The company is sticking to the 2014 schedule for the first flight, said Han.

The first delivery of COMAC's 90-seat ARJ21 has slipped by at least four years from a previously planned 2007 debut.

Bloomberg News