January 27, 2013 China’s first flight of The Yun-20
China over the last several years has been developing an aircraft manufacturing industry. The goal is to rival Boeing and Airbus by presenting viable alternatives to those aircraft to that end, yesterday the Yun-20 made it’s first flight. The Yun-20 is jumbo freighter more in line with large cargo jets than passenger jets, but it is a critical step for Chinese Aviation.
While china hopes to compete with Boeing and Airbus it may be awhile before they actually do so. Where Airbus and Boeing have had decades to develop their products and make them more efficient China has only been in the business for a few years. According to China Airborne, both Chinese jet liners currently weigh far more than other aircraft in their class.
With airlines clamoring for more efficient aircraft lightweight aircraft operate at an advantage. Every ounce of weight saved means an ounce of fuel not burned or ounce of cargo carried. These Chinese aircraft will operate at a competitive disadvantage compared to other aircraft. While Chinese aircraft manufacture COMAC announced they have 380 orders for their large narrow-body jet. None of the these orders come from outside China which suggests that few are actually interested in the jet. Also a large portion of those orders also are going to Chinese air leasing companies, so the airlines that are ordered may not have a home. This makes the C919 more comparable with the Russian SSJ-100 which also has only limited appeal outside of Russia and former Eastern-Bloc airlines.
I suspect China will eventually develop a commercial aviation industry, but they will have to improve beyond these for lack of a better word beta tests. It will be interesting to see if China sticks with this, or abandons the commercial aircraft market.
What do you all think?
Link to China Airborne, http://www.amazon.com/China-Airborne-James-Fallows/dp/0375422110/