China’s ambition now includes building its own Made-in-China full-size jet to one day compete with Boeing and Airbus for a share of the lucrative commercial aviation marketplace.
Wu Guanghi, the new jumbo jet’s chief designer, told the Xinhua New Agency that the "C" in C919 is the first letter of China. But it will also form an ABC pattern with A for Airbus, B for Boeing, and C for COMAC.
In a sense, this is following a well-trodden path. As with appliances, electronics and automobiles. First, foreign companies came here to assemble their products. Then the Chinese learned the technology and began producing their own versions. And now cheaper Chinese brands are competing with their foreign counterparts, largely for domestic consumers and increasingly around the world.
One senior COMAC official, said, "It took about 10 years for people to accept ‘Made in China’ household appliances. It took about 20 years for acceptance of vehicles made in China. Right now, almost all the vehicle brands have factories in China. . . I think 30 years will be enough for people to accept ‘Made in China’ aircraft."
Chinese officials think that they have found a niche to compete with aviation’s two big players. The C919 will be a single-aisle jet with 150 to 190 seats, while the other plane makers are concentrating on wide-body jumbo jets. Their jet will be cheaper, they say, and also more environmentally friendly.
Premier Wen Jiabao laid out China’s jet vision in a May speech titled "Let The Large Aircraft of China Fly in the Blue Sky". He said, "We must succeed in doing this, and the dream of many generations will come true."
The Washington Post reported a COMAC senior official said, "COMAC right now is only the little brother to Boeing and Airbus. We won’t threaten Boeing and Airbus because the production capacity isn’t enough. In the next 10 to 20 years, Boeing and Airbus will dominate the Chinese market. We just hope we can offer more choices to the market."
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