COMAC partners with Airbus – for now

“To build sustainable aviation, which is our common goal, we are facing common challenges, which need all the players of the entire industry to meet together.”

This is the belief of Airbus chief operating officer Günter Butschek, so it is particularly encouraging that Chinese manufacturer Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China (COMAC) has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with its European counterpart with sustainability in mind.


The partnership will initially focus on new air traffic management concepts and operations but further projects will be launched “as the scope of the co-operation expands”. The two manufacturers will “share best practices and identify improvements required by current ATM technology roadmaps” both on-board the aircraft and on the ground in a bid to improve safety, efficiency and sustainability.


As well as standardised and interoperable air traffic management, other improvements will include optimised take-off, landing and taxiing procedures.


“We will strengthen the co-operation with Airbus in areas like global interoperability, sustainability and aircraft safety, deepen the understanding of the world’s latest concepts and operations, best practices and methodologies,” said COMAC president He Dongfeng. “Through collaboration, both companies will jointly contribute to the long-term sustainable development of the aviation industry.”


With COMAC moving into Airbus and Boeing’s territory with the development of its C919 aircraft, the company could turn from partner to major rival, in terms of the actual business of aircraft orders. Airbus chief operating officer John Leahy told CNBC at the recent Singapore Airshow that this would take time, however. “Are we worried about [new] competitors in the next 10 years? The answer is no, not really. In 20 years, it's almost a certainty,” he said.


The single-aisle C919 has already won 400 orders, but the majority of these have come from the domestic Chinese market. “Our estimation, even though we don't have a plan yet to compete for the market with Boeing and Airbus, is that may take us dozens of years,” admitted Comac's chief financial officer, Tian Min in Singapore. 

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