After three years of tinkering, China has today unveiled its Comac C919 passenger jet at the Zhuhai air show.
Obligingly, Air China, China Southern and China Eastern immediately placed orders for 100 of the jets, which should be ready for delivery by 2016. It’s always helpful to have state-owned clients for your state-owned factories.
The C919 is a single-aisle, 150 to 190-seat jet around the same size as the Airbus A320s and Boeing 737s that currently fly most of China’s domestic routes.
Over the next 20 years, China is expected to buy around 100 of this class of jet every year, and it is no coincidence that Comac, the makers of the plane, believe they will produce around 100 C919s annually. Perhaps in anticipation of an enormous state-run rival emerging into the world’s biggest aviation market, shares in EADS, the owners of Airbus, dropped almost 1% today in Paris.
These planes may not be polished competitors to Boeing and Airbus, but it is pretty clear that China (which has given Comac some $7 billion in funding) aims to break up the duopoly, both at home and abroad. You can see plenty of emerging market customers choosing to take a brand new Comac C919 over a second-hand battered Airbus.