State-owned aerospace conglomerate Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC) forecasts that regional aircraft and 150-seat narrowbodies will account for the majority of China's demand over the next 20 years.
At the Aviation Expo China in Beijing, AVIC released its 2009-2028 market forecast which shows the country will increase its commercial aircraft fleet size to 4,233 at the end of 2028 from 1191 at the end of 2008.
During this period there will be demand for 3,796 aircraft, it says, adding that 150-seat aircraft will be the biggest category with 1,572.
It also says there will be demand for: 408 110-seaters, 466 70-90 seaters and 408 30-50 seat aircraft.
As for larger aircraft, there will be demand for 555 200-seat, 298 300-seat and 90 400-seat aircraft, it adds.
Even though 150-seaters will still be the largest category, AVIC development and research centre VP Liao Quanwang says as a proportion of the total fleet it will account for 39% in 2028 whereas at the end of 2008 it was 67%.
This is because the number of regional aircraft is set to increase dramatically, according to AVIC's forecast.
Within the western parts of China there is enormous potential for regional aviation, says Liao, adding that "for the small routes and centres you need the Xian Aircraft MA60."
He also says there is potential for regional aircraft such as the Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China (Comac) C919 to ply routes linking western and eastern China.
Regional aircraft have a role because "we think there will be a tendency among airlines to increase frequency" using smaller aircraft and to launch more non-stop flights, he says.
"Right now the 150-seater is the main aircraft in China's fleet but airlines need to optimise their fleet structure by increasing the size of the regional fleet," he adds.
AVIC has a vested interest in regional and 150-seat aircraft. It produces the 60-seat Xian Aircraft MA60 turboprop and is developing a 70-seat MA700 turboprop.
It is also the top supplier to the 90-seat Comac ARJ21 programme and the 150-seat Comac C919 programme.
There are only a handful of Chinese-built commercial aircraft in service with Chinese carriers today.
"But in terms of the China market we are confident we will secure a share of the market in future," says Liao.
As for the international market, it will be tough because "we have some very strong" international competitors, he adds.
Aircraft-makers around the world are focused on China because it is the fastest growing aviation market in the world.
AVIC's 2009-2028 forecast predicts RPKs will average 8.2% per annum until the end of 2028.
Growth for the period 2009-2013 will be the fastest with 10.2% RPK growth per annum on average, it says.