The announcement that Ryanair will develop a new airplane with state-backed Chinese aircraft manufacturer COMAC on Tuesday at the Paris Air Show is the latest step towards a Chinese-made large commercial airplane.
Ryanair decided to consult on the development of a new narrow-bodied aircraft with the Chinese. However, no money has yet changed hands, and the agreement may never result in a viable aircraft flying through the skies.
“It really depends on whether the Chinese can actually do it as well as they say,” Saj Ahmad, aerospace analyst at FBE Aerospace, told CNBC.com.
“Airlines are being very wary with them. It’s difficult to gauge as they’re using a lot of companies who have never built anything with such a high value or risk for airlines before,” Ahmad added.
The budget Ireland-based airline is looking for an alternative to the Boeing 737s which comprise much of its current fleet.
Its outspoken chief executive Michael O’Leary, who told CNBC in May that discussions with Boeing were “not getting anywhere”, might just be “thumbing his nose” at Boeing, Ahmad said.
“He could just be saying ‘we can go elsewhere than the 737’. It seems quite clear that Ryanair doesn’t want to go to Airbus just yet. With the number of Airbus Neo orders being announced, they’re unlikely to get meaningful orders before the end of the decade,” Ahmad said.
COMAC is planning a C919 aircraft to rival the Boeing 737 and the Airbus A320, the dominant players in the market.
One of the big questions asked at the biennial Air Show is when Boeing will make a decision about whether to re-engine its 737, or design a new plane, to rival Airbus’s Neo, which has been one of the most high-profile planes at the show so far.
Medium-sized, long-range airplanes which sit around 400 people are attracting more interest than larger planes such as the superjumbo A380 at the moment, according to Ahmad.
On Sunday, COMAC set up its European office in Paris, only its second overseas branch after its U.S. office.
The Chinese aerospace maker, which was established only three years ago in Shanghai with $2.7 billion from national and regional governments, is best known for its regional jet ARJ21 and the trunk liner C919, which seats up to 200 people.