Here’s Why The Biggest Beneficiary Of Boeing’s Downfall Is China

Amid Boeing’s challenges, China’s Comac rises as a prominent beneficiary, positioning itself to potentially surpass the American aviation giant.

Here's Why The Biggest Beneficiary Of Boeing’s Downfall Is China 1

To fulfill the growing domestic demand for passenger jets, the Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China, or Comac, intends to increase its manufacturing capacity. This expansion comes at the same time that Boeing, the American aviation giant, is still having problems with its planes.

In China’s rapidly expanding aviation business, there is a growing likelihood that Comac may surpass the ill-fated and badly run US aircraft manufacturer. However, there’s also a risk that in retaliation, the US might impose fresh penalties on Comac and other Chinese aircraft manufacturers.

Recent sources state that Comac intends to open a second manufacturing facility in Shanghai, complete with an assembly line for the C919 narrow-body passenger jet and associated logistics facilities. The stated objective is to increase Comac’s yearly production capacity from roughly 50 aircraft at this time to 150 later in the decade.

The C919 competes with the Boeing 737 and Airbus A320 thanks to its capacity of 192 passengers and 5,555 kilometers of trip. Comac is quite new to the market, having only supplied five C919s thus far. However, reports from China indicate that Comac has more than 1,000 aircraft on backorder.

In particular, China Air, China Eastern Airlines, and China Southern Airlines have placed orders with the up-and-coming Chinese aircraft assembler for roughly 300 aircraft, with delivery not expected to begin until 2031. In February, however, Tibet Airlines placed an order for 40 C919s.

Comparisons are challenging due to limited transparency, but according to Boeing, by the end of 2023, it will have 140 finished B737 MAX 8 aircraft in inventory, 85 of which were going to China. By the end of April, just 22 of these had been delivered.

One of the four narrow-body passenger aircraft models in the Boeing 737 MAX series is the MAX 8. When going into commercial service in 2017, the aircraft gained notoriety in 2018 and 2019 when two deadly crashes—one in Ethiopia and one in Indonesia—were linked to malfunctioning flight control software.

China was the first country to ground the 737 MAX, doing so in March 2019. The Chinese government removed its prohibition on the delivery of the 118 Boeing 737 MAX planes that Chinese airlines and airplane leasing firms had placed orders for in December 2023.

A door plug from an Alaska Airlines MAX 9 airplane popped out in January of this year and dropped into a Portland, Oregon school teacher’s backyard, causing a stir in the media. Subsequent investigations showed that the bolts intended to secure the door had not been fitted.

Boeing had yet another setback as a result of this incident. US Senate hearings raised concerns about alleged insufficient quality control and safety processes, and authorities sought a study of the company’s manufacturing and supply chain practices.

More recently, on May 22, it was reported that Boeing aircraft deliveries to China had once again been postponed while the Chinese Civil Aviation Administration looked into the batteries that power the voice recorders in the cockpit.

By the end of this year, Boeing hopes to have the majority of its inventory delivered, however, it is difficult to predict with certainty at this time. Boeing is a prime target for retribution if the Biden administration decides to sanction Comac due to election-year politics.

US Senators Marco Rubio and Rick Scott of Florida wrote to Under Secretary of Commerce for Industry and Security Alan Estevez more than a year ago, in April 2023, expressing their dissatisfaction over the department’s refusal to include Comac on its list of Military End Users.

The senators wrote that Comac “works closely with Western aerospace companies, including firms that produce jet engines and many other components used in commercial and military aircraft. Given the CCP’s [Chinese Communist Party’s] commitment to acquire dual-use aerospace technologies through trade as well as forced joint venture and partnerships, these firms, and US national security by extension, are at risk.”

The majority of the C919’s main parts are either imported or produced in China by American and European businesses in collaboration with their Chinese partners. The LEAP jet engine, which powers the aircraft, is produced by CFM International, a joint venture between GE Aviation in the United States and Safran Aircraft Engines in France.

Based in China, local joint ventures with Honeywell, Rockwell Collins, Parker Aerospace, and Liebherr manufacture flight controls, avionics, hydraulics, actuators, fuel systems, and landing gear.

The Chinese company Aero Engine Corporation is working on a LEAP jet engine substitute, but according to recent sources, certification might not happen until 2025, if at all. About 200 Chinese subcontractors provide the C919’s wings, fuselage, forgings, and other essential parts and components.

Comac aims to stay away from the quality issues that have crippled Boeing’s business and severely tarnished its brand. China Eastern Airlines tested the C919 for four days at the start of May, paying particular attention to the engines, landing gear, and instruments.

Thorough testing is essential for the C919 to receive certification as a newcomer to the civil aviation sector and eventually be able to compete for orders outside of China.

Following their participation in the Singapore Airshow in February, Comac’s smaller ARJ21 regional aircraft and the C919 performed demonstration flights around Malaysia and Southeast Asia. Target markets for Comac are also clearly those in Africa and Latin America, where China has a significant economic footprint and generally positive political ties.

The European Aviation Safety Agency is the body that the Chinese Civil Aviation Administration and Comac are hoping to get permission for the C919. However, before approving the C919’s Chinese certification, the Europeans are said to conduct a comprehensive review; this might take up to five years.

Additionally, Comac is developing the C929 and C939 widebody passenger planes. The C929 would compete with the Boeing 787 and Airbus A350. In its basic form, it would have 280 seats and a range of 12,000 kilometers. According to reports, the design has advanced to the point where the main components might be prepared for assembly by 2027.

The C939, a larger plane that could travel up to 13,000 kilometers with 400 passengers, would take on the Boeing 777 and Airbus A350. It is still in the early stages of design, and no prototype has yet been constructed.

Sanctions or not, Comac is probably going to be a major rival to Boeing and Airbus in ten years. For Airbus, however, which is now constructing its second final assembly plant in Tianjin, China, the situation is less dire.

Airbus would most likely take up any orders that Comac was unable to complete if US sanctions were implemented. Conversely, Boeing would have little chance of survival in China, and American component manufacturers would lose out to a more self-sufficient and assured Chinese aircraft engine and components industry.

Recently, GreatGameIndia reported that a British man died after a Singapore Airlines Boeing 777 encountered severe turbulence and suddenly dropped 6,000 feet during a London-Singapore flight.

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