Safran and GE make move for C919 engine supply

Singapore
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Safran and its partner GE Aviation are placing more manufacturing work in China, as the country nears selection of a western engine supplier for its new Comac C919 narrowbody.

At the Aviation Expo China in Beijing, Safran-GE's newly named nacelle company, Nexcelle, signed a framework agreement with AVIC Aircraft that will see the two organisations establish a joint venture in China to design and manufacture nacelles for current types and aircraft in development. At the show, Safran also signed a framework agreement with AVIC Aircraft to collaborate on the design, production, assembly and support of nacelles and landing gears.

"This agreement includes the planned establishment of new facilities in China based on the partners' existing assets," says Safran. "This means the partners will be able to submit competitive proposals for the C919."

Comac says major systems for the C919, such as the engines and landing gear, will be selected towards the end of the year.

Safran's Messier-Dowty and Messier-Bugatti, along with three AVIC companies, have put in a joint proposal to Comac for landing gear and break systems on the C919, it adds.

At the Nexcelle and Safran press conference at the show, GE Aviation and Safran chief executives Lorraine Bolsinger and Jean-Paul Herteman explained their aspirations for broadening links with China. "I hope we can work together on the C919 project, " said Herteman. Bolsinger said the aim was for Nexcelle's China joint venture to produce nacelles for western aircraft and, later, the C919.

Comac vice-president and C919 chief designer Wu Guanghui said the company had "received proposals from engine suppliers including Safran" and that Comac's chairman had visited Safran in France earlier this year.

For the C919, Safran is teaming up with GE under the CFM International banner to propose the CFM Leap-X engine.

Comac aims to fly the first C919 in 2014 and deliver the first aircraft in 2016. The airframer's director of marketing and sales, Chen Jin, says engine-makers have been told the engines must offer 12-15% lower fuel consumption than today's powerplants.

He also says the C919 will have advanced aerodynamics and extensive use of "advanced materials to reduce weight".

Chen says the aim is to announce initial customers for the 156- to 168-seater in the first half of 2010.