Airbus Industrie has established a new subsidiary company, Airbus Industrie Asia (AIA), headed by former Alenia executive Carlo Scaglia, to partner China and Singapore in the development of the planned new A318/AE-100 narrowbody passenger aircraft.

AIA has been legally registered in France as a Société bar Actions Simplifiée. Under the earlier "Heads of Agreement" between the five partners of Airbus and Aero International (Regional) (AI(R)), Alenia will hold a 38% stake in AIA and the European consortium the remainder.

A new team has to lead in the joint-venture negotiations with Aviation Industries of China (AVIC) and Singapore Technologies (ST). The team draws heavily on Airbus personnel formerly involved in its A320 family of narrowbody aircraft.

It is understood that AIA head of engineering, Didier Puyplat, formerly chief engineer of the A320 programme, while the new company's head of industrial operations will be Andreas Domin, responsible for Airbus A319/321 final assembly in Hamburg.

Other appointments include ex-CASA employee Juan de Uriarte as AIA head of marketing, and head of legal affairs Philippe Buzut.

Michael O'Callaghan, formerly attached to AI(R)'s now-defunct Aero International Asia subsidiary, has been made head of business, and deputy chief executive to Scaglia. Ex-Aero International Asia chief representative in Beijing, Philippe Lebouc, has also been transferred to AIA to head its office in the Chinese capital.

Elements of the new AIA team have already met AVIC and ST in Beijing to review progress previously made by AI(R) and to clarify the new company's position. The three sides hope to reach an overall agreement on the new joint venture in time for the Paris air show in June and to begin preliminary development of the A318/AE-100 shortly afterwards.

Major hurdles have yet to be overcome. The biggest problem faced by negotiators is the size and weight of the proposed new aircraft. AVIC is pushing for a three-member aircraft family, of 90- to 140 seats, which Airbus argues overlaps with its A319 (Flight International, 15-21 January).

Production will be divided according to shares in the programme, with China the largest stakeholder, responsible for the wing and final assembly. Europe and ST, however, are pressing for the joint venture to be involved directly in managing the final assembly of the A318/AE-100 in China, to ensure quality control.

One issue which appears to have been settled is the location of the joint-venture headquarters, which will now be in Hong Kong. The move is designed to get around Chinese fiscal restrictions and to ease the transfer of funds.

Source: Flight International