Singapore Airshow highlights

COMAC Poses No Threat to Boeing, Airbus: President

Li Anne Wong |Senior Digital Editor, CNBC Asia

Despite speculation that Chinese aerospace manufacturer COMAC could one day rival industry heavyweights Airbus and Boeing, the firm says its focus remains firmly on the domestic market.

Jin Zhuanglong, chairman of Commercial Aircraft Corp. of China (Comac)
Bloomberg | Getty Images

Speaking to CNBC on the sidelines of the Singapore Airshow, COMAC’s Chairman Jin Zhuang Long said Comac’s near-term goal was to ultimately account for a third of China’s market.

“COMAC will not pose any threat to Boeing or Airbus over a long period of time since we only have two types of aircraft so far: namely the ARJ21 and C919,” Jin said

On Tuesday, COMAC announced a deal to sell 20 C919 passenger jets to BOC Aviation, a Singapore-based leasing company wholly-owned by Bank of China . BOC Aviation is COMAC's 11th customer for the C919, bringing its total order backlog for the aircraft to 235.

“I want to emphasize here that the sales strategy for the C919 is mainly to target China’s domestic market. Our standard is still international standard in terms of product development. But our market is mainly Chinese market,” Jin said.

Attendants at a mock up of a Commercial Aircraft Corp. of China (Comac) C919 await visitors at the Airshow China 2010 in Zhuhai, Guangdong province, China.
Bloomberg | Getty Images

When asked if the C919, a new narrow-body 150-seater plane designed and manufactured in China, was on track for its maiden flight in 2014, Jin said he was fairly confident, but acknowledged that the timeline was ambitious.

“As you know COMAC was only founded not too long ago in 2008. It takes time for the company to develop. So in product development, we will definitely encounter many technological difficulties, because airplanes need difficult technologies,” he said.

C919 is COMAC's second foray into passenger jets. Its first offering, the ARJ21, a regional jet designed to take on rival offerings from the likes of Embraer and Bombardier, suffered delays in development. The jet finally completed its maiden flight in 2008, three years behind schedule, and also endured setbacks in its airworthiness certification.

But Jin believes the C919, the customers of which include Air China , China Eastern , China Southern and Hainan Group, will far exceed the success of ARJ21.

“The aviation market in China is very promising, the C919 has now become one of the most welcomed models of this kind in the market.”