China to Unveil Its Own Large Jetliner

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November 13, 2010|David Pierson, Los Angeles Times

Reporting from Beijing — China is aiming to reshape the global aviation industry with a home-grown jetliner, a direct challenge to the supremacy of Boeing and Airbus, the world’s only manufacturers of large commercial aircraft.

FOR THE RECORD:
Chinese jetliner: A Nov. 13 article in Section A about China’s effort to build a jetliner to rival industry leaders Boeing and Airbus said one of the country’s state-owned carriers, China Airlines, was expected to announce orders soon for the new aircraft, the C919. It is Air China, which is owned by the People’s Republic of China, that is expected to announce the orders. China Airlines, which is based in Taiwan, is majority owned by the Taiwanese government. —


The communist government has staked billions of dollars and national pride on the effort. What may surprise some Americans worried about slipping U.S. competitiveness is that some well-known U.S. companies are aiding China in its quest.

That partnership will be on display next week at an air show in southern China with the unveiling of a full-scale mockup of the C919. Slated for production by 2016, the 156-seat, single-aisle passenger plane would have its fuselage emblazoned with Comac, short for the state-owned Commercial Aircraft Corp. of China. But inside, the most crucial systems would bear the trademarks of some of the biggest names in Western aviation.

Honeywell International Inc. will supply power units, on-board computing systems, wheels and brakes; Rockwell Collins Inc. will handle navigation systems; GE Aviation is building the avionics; Eaton Corp. is involved with fuel and hydraulics; and Parker Aerospace of Irvine is responsible for flight controls. Powering the aircraft will be two fuel-efficient engines built by CFM International, a company co-owned by GE and French conglomerate Safran.

Global supply chains are common in the aviation industry: Chicago-based Boeing and Europe’s Airbus rely on parts makers and assembly operations around the world. But China isn’t content just to buy sophisticated gear for the C919; the government has required foreign suppliers to set up joint ventures with Chinese companies.

That has put U.S. and European suppliers in a tough spot: Be willing to hand over advanced technology to Chinese firms that could one day be rivals or miss out on what’s likely to be the biggest aviation bonanza of the next half a century. Honeywell alone has snagged contracts worth more than $11 billion for the project.

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