EU-China Sign Historic Bilateral Agreements

 - May 22, 2019, 9:37 AM

As Comac continues to struggle to bring its ambitious C919 project in line with international requirements, Chinese and European regulators on Monday inked two aviation agreements to boost cooperation in airworthiness and environmental certification, flight operations, air traffic control, licensing, and training. The landmark deals—a bilateral civil aviation safety agreement and a so-called horizontal air services agreement—are the first of their kind between the two countries.  

“The main objective of the bilateral civil aviation safety agreement (BASA) is to support worldwide trade in aircraft and related products,’’ the European Commission (EC) said in a statement. “This agreement will remove the unnecessary duplication of evaluation and certification activities for aeronautical products by the civil aviation authorities, and therefore reduce costs for the aviation sector.” Regulators expect the BASA will provide a higher level of civil aviation safety and environmental compatibility.

The second deal—the horizontal aviation agreement—seeks to replace existing bilateral air services agreements that have previously placed restrictions on EU carriers flying to China. Currently, EU operators may fly to China only from EU states with bilateral agreements. The new agreement will allow European operators to fly to China from each of the EU’s 28 member states.

“The conclusion of a horizontal agreement will thereby bring bilateral air services agreements between China and EU member states into conformity with EU law—a renewed legal certainty which will be beneficial to airlines on both sides,” the EC said.

With the expansion in passenger and freight operations, European officials estimate that both agreements generate economic benefits of about $3.9 billion for the EU and China by 2025 and create 11,000 jobs over the period. Currently, more than 30 airlines connect the EU with China, offering a choice of 84 city pairs, 475 weekly return flights, and more than 270,000 weekly seats. Another 110 weekly round-trip freighter flights operate between the two sides. 

The agreements come as Comac continues to face significant challenges in meeting the certification standards required to enable the sale of its C919 and ARJ21 aircraft in markets outside of China. While the manufacturer has made some headway with the C919, evident in test flights, teams working on the project have encountered repeated setbacks varying from disruptions in avionics integrations and a shortage of local expertise to misinterpretations of regulatory requirements. As a result, Comac will need virtually no interruptions to its schedule timelines to meet its first delivery date target of 2021.