Airbus and China intend to strengthen their technical and engineering ties following the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on aviation and aerospace.
Under the proposed deal, Airbus will help develop engineering skills and high-tech innovation in China, and further integrate Chinese suppliers into its supply chain.
That chain already includes a completion facility in Tianjin set to deliver its first A330 in September, and the A320 Family Aircraft Final Assembly Line Asia, which will start work on its first A320neo later this year.
Global supply chains have caused problems for airframers in the past, notably on the delayed 787 programme.
Yet Airbus would argue that, unlike Boeing, cross-border integration is in its DNA, given that the company was a multi-national project from the start.
Longer term, there is the question of technology transfer, and the extent to which Airbus is helping to create a rival by supporting Chinese aerospace development.
Here, current thinking seems to be that China is too large a market to ignore, and that some knowledge transfer is the price of access. Boeing is also constructing a completion and delivery centre, for the 737, in China.
“The success of the industrial cooperation between Airbus and China makes itself a model of high-tech and win-win partnership between China and Europe,” said Fabrice Brégier at the signing of the recent MoU.
Aviation Week’s 2017 Commercial Aviation Fleet & MRO Forecast predicts that the Chinese fleet will grow by 40% over the next five years to 4,900 aircraft, of which 48% will be Boeing and 41% Airbus.
Those aircraft are expected to generate $41 billion in MRO demand, with a heavy emphasis on component maintenance.