Story by the Puget Sound Business Journal
China Eastern Airlines wants to build more of its own airplanes, a company executive announced this week.
Liu Shaoyong, chairman of the airline and president of China Eastern Air Holding Company, came to town during Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to Seattle this week to speak as part of a panel at a U.S.-China trade conference on Tuesday.
“The Dreamliner is your dream,” he told U.S. and Chinese delegates at the conference. “In China, we want to fulfill our dream. We want to build manufacture our own airplanes.”
While right now, Chinese aerospace manufacturers aren’t a big threat to Boeing (NYSE: BA), that could change as the Chinese planes get more sophisticated in their design and technology.
Liu called on the Federal Aviation Administration to support the Chinese-made C919 aircraft. The single-aisle plane is built by the government-funded Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China or COMAC to directly compete with Boeing’s 737 series.
Earlier this month, a Thai airline placed an order for 10 of the C919 planes to replace two leased Boeing 737-400s. The C919s aren’t quite as technologically advanced as Boeing’s Renton-built 737s, but the planes use a similar engine.
It’s a troubling trend for Boeing, which sees China as its largest future market.
Liu spoke on the eve of Boeing’s announcement about a $38 billion deal to sell 300 jets to China and build its first-ever overseas production facility in the country.
The facility will finish 737s destined for Chinese airlines. Chinese airlines took delivery of about 30 percent of all of the Boeing’s single-aisle planes this year, and the company is banking on that trend to continue.
Chinese airlines orders for Boeing planes are expected to account for $490 billion in the next 20 years, more than half Boeing’s predictions for orders.