Nice picture of ARJ21 first flight (from America)

China’s ARJ21 70-90-seat regional jet is flying and here’s a decent pic of it, courtesy of General Electric.

 

ARJ21 live.JPG

GE of course provides the CF34 engines. And pretty well every other system on the aircraft is Western – mostly American in fact. Honeywell, Collins, Hamilton Sunstrand, Parker Hannifin, Moog - you get the idea. Liebherr-Aerospace from France in there somewhere too. Structures, however, pretty well all Chinese. Quite how much it all owes to McDonnell Douglas’ activities in China back in the 1990s is debatable – certainly shades of DC-9 with winglets wouldn’t you say.


All of which resurrects the question of when China will be a serious competitor for Western aircraft. I’m still a sceptic. What we have here is a weak competitor to Embraer and Bombardier (though a strong one for Superjet in Russia) which will provide some nice cashflow to all those Western suppliers (and launch customer GECAS) on the back of, maybe, a few hundred sales to China and its friends. Maybe only a couple of hundred.

After which China is really not much further forward.

I think the same scenario is going to be played out in the mid-size category. Either China decides to stick with home-grown engines and technology and produce a hopelessly uncompetitive aircraft, or it goes with the Western flow and produces a largely Western aircraft – certainly in value terms.

Now, jobs are another thing. Expect some brutal offset negotiations with production trickling inexorably Eastwards. But that’s still a very slow process – just ask Russia.

True, China will play off Europe and the US against each other, but the Russian story shows how Airbus and Boeing have a good grasp of game theory and are capable of showing restraint in the face of a greater mutual peril. Interesting though their Russian operations are, they are still very modest.

I still think the ’50 years of Western aerospace dominance’ school of thought is about right.

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