China’s Comac Sees ‘Substantial’ C919 Plane Orders This Year

Commercial Aircraft Corp. of China, maker of the nation’s first large passenger jet, expects to announce “substantial” new orders for the plane this year, bolstering efforts to challenge Boeing Co. (BA) and Airbus SAS.

The company will announce deals for the C919 at “the most appropriate time,” Chen Jin, general manager for sales and marketing at the state-backed planemaker, said yesterday at the Beijing air show. “We will have substantial new orders,” he said, declining to elaborate.

ICBC Financial Leasing Co., owned by China’s biggest bank by market value, and China Aircraft Leasing Co. have said they are nearing deals for the 168-seat C919, potentially ending a near yearlong order drought. Shanghai-based Comac announced as many as 100 C919 orders last year when it confirmed plans to compete with Boeing and Airbus’s bestselling models.

“Chinese airlines and state-backed leasing firms need to show their support by placing orders as the planemaker is also owned by the government,” said David Wei, an analyst with Shanghai Securities Co. “If Comac can win more orders, especially from overseas customers, it means its product is attractive.”

200-Jet Order

Comac’s chief designer, Wu Guanghui, said June 20 that the C919 may attract 50 to 100 orders this year. Ryanair Holdings Plc (RYA), Europe’s biggest discount airline, said the next day that it’s exploring an order for at least 200 single-aisle jets from the planemaker. Ryanair also agreed to help develop the C919, which is due to make its first flight in 2014.

Existing customers for the plane include General Electric Co.’s leasing arm, domestic lessors and China’s big three airlines, Air China Ltd. (753), China Southern Airlines Co. and China Eastern Airlines Corp. ICBC Financial, a unit of Industrial & Commercial Bank of China Ltd., said Sept. 20 it may announce an order for the jet next month. China Aircraft Leasing said in August it was close to a deal for 20 planes.

China first announced plans for the jet in 2008 to help develop a globally competitive aerospace industry and pare its reliance on imports. The country will need as many as 5,000 new aircraft through 2030, Boeing said this month, raising its 20- year forecast by 15 percent. Comac has forecast that Chinese airlines will receive 4,700 new planes over the next 20 years.

Comac is working with overseas suppliers to help develop the C919. CFM International Inc., a GE-Safran SA venture, is set to supply the aircraft’s engines. Honeywell International Inc. (HON), United Technologies Corp. (UTX) and Parker Hannifin Corp. have agreed to supply other components.

Comac and Bombardier Inc. (BBD/B) also said in March they would explore working together in marketing, customer support and procurement as they work to cut costs and challenge Boeing and Airbus’s grip on the narrowbody plane market. The two sides are nearing formal deals on cooperation, Benjamin Boehm, Bombardier’s vice president for international business, said this week.

--Jasmine Wang. Editors: Vipin V. Nair, Neil Denslow.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jasmine Wang in Hong Kong at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Neil Denslow at

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