Business / Industries

Airbus representative recounts 'amazing' trajectory of career

(Xinhua) Updated: 2015-10-09 09:51

Chen Juming says his "secret joy" is to sit and count Airbus aircraft as they take off, land and taxi at Beijing Capital International Airport.

His office overlooks the airport and every plane he counts is a measure of his success after 20 years in the civil aviation industry.

Better known as Eric Chen, president and CEO of Airbus China, he still can't quite believe the trajectory his life has taken.

"It's amazing how a liberal arts student like me succeeded in the high-tech industry of aviation. I'm still interested in history, philosophy and language," says Chen, "as well as the magic of aviation."

He admits that Airbus took some risks, including a series of strategic movement and the hire of him since 1994.

With no aviation or business background, Chen was the first Chinese and the 32nd nationality on the Airbus staff.

He began as an area sales director, heading a team to explore the country's burgeoning civil aviation market.

At the time, only 20 Airbus aircraft were in service in China. In 2015, the figure is around 1,200.

The year also marks the 30th anniversary of Airbus' first aircraft entering into the Chinese market.

Born in the 1970s, Airbus was a latecomer in the global aviation industry, but a sharp pioneer in China with a strategic market plan.

As one of the pioneers of Airbus staff in China, Chen has witnessed the expansion of the Airbus in-service fleet from 6 percent of China's total in 1994 to 50 percent today for aircraft with more than 100 seats.

"Airbus sensed and seized the first chance. Advancing its strategic plan in China' s market, we jointly constructed comprehensive and mutually beneficial cooperation," Chen said.

China's fast economic growth started to accelerate after late leader Deng Xiaoping's famous 1992 "southern tour", during which he called for bolder reforms.

Soon after, the civil aviation market took off as the government loosened its grip on management, and the airlines rose to the challenge of tapping the vast market.

Airbus invested $80 million in building a training center for pilots to master its modern operating systems, and it built a support center to supply airlines with aviation materials and spares.

"Such a big investment then could not be assured with a pay-back on a strict calculation of its return on investment. It was forward-looking and also risky. At last, Airbus was proved to be right," recalls Chen.

Development has continued. In 2005, Airbus set up an engineering center in Beijing and started to discuss an assembly line in Tianjin for its popular A320 narrow-body passenger aircraft.

The final assembly line, or FAL, in Tianjin was inaugurated in 2008 and so far has delivered some 240 aircraft.

In July 2015, the company launched in Tianjin its Completion and Delivery Centre for fitting out cabins and furnishings, and painting.

In two and half years, Tianjin will be the world's third center delivering both its narrow-and wide-body aircraft, after its headquarters in Toulouse, France, and Seattle in the United States.

"On the whole, Airbus followed the right, appropriate and practical development strategy in China. It is mutually beneficial and has earned our position in the Chinese market," says Chen.

In May 2015, Chen was awarded the Chevalier de la Legion d'Honneur, one of France's top honors, in recognition of his achievements in leading the development of Airbus in China, and the important role he has played in facilitating relations and exchanges between China and France.

While Chen admits frankly that leading Airbus China "has exceeded my original ambition", he relishes the opportunity to blaze a trail and inspire others.

"I expect to see more senior executives of international companies from China-not as few as today."

At home he tries to teach his young son some of the science involved in "flying an egg" .

"Our work is to make a giant metal body shuttle around the world, carrying hundreds of people safely and comfortably," he says.

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