While Boeing lays claim to the status of “China’s leading supplier of passenger airplanes,” Airbus certainly proved itself a worthy competitor for that title last week, as it inked contracts for 102 airliners from China Aviation Supplies Holding Company (CAS). The business included new firm orders for 50 A320-family jets, six A330s and 10 A350XWBs, while the parties confirmed an earlier order for 36 A330s. An Airbus spokesperson told AIN that the manufacturer does not yet know delivery schedule details or even the identity of the airplanes’ ultimate operators. However, reports out of China have identified China Eastern, China Southern and Air China as eventual recipients.
Li Hai, president of CAS, and Tom Enders, president and CEO of Airbus, signed the agreement at the Elysée Palace in Paris, in the presence of visiting Chinese President Hu Jintao, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, UK Minister for Industry Mark Prisk and Louis Gallois, CEO of EADS.
The signings came just a day after Boeing released a revised forecast for the Chinese market that projects a 20-year demand for 4,330 new commercial airplanes worth $480 billion. Last year’s Boeing forecast placed demand at 3,770 airplanes worth $400 billion. According to Boeing’s latest projections, China’s fleet will triple in size over the next 20 years, making it the largest airplane market outside the U.S.
Notwithstanding Airbus’s recent sales coup, Boeing expects the partnership it has cultivated over the years with Chinese industry to pay big dividends over the forecast period. “Boeing’s equity investment in China is considerable, and the aviation goods and services we buy from China is significantly greater than other aviation companies,” said Randy Tinseth, Boeing Commercial Airplanes vice president of marketing. “In the coming years, Boeing purchases are expected to exceed $3 billion.”
Of course, Airbus, too, has contributed to the development of China’s aerospace industry, perhaps most notably with the opening in 2008 of an A320 final assembly line in Tianjin. Meanwhile, more than half of the Airbus airplanes in service worldwide contain parts produced by Chinese companies.