Transportation

It will take China more than 10 years to compete with Boeing, Airbus, says CEO of Dassault Systemes

Key Points
  • It will take China more than a decade to create a globally competitive, homegrown airplane maker that can go head-to-head with the likes of Boeing and Airbus, according to industry veteran Bernard Charles, CEO of Dassault Systemes.
  • Aerospace is a complex industry and it takes time, even for well-established companies, to accumulate knowledge and know-hows to build reliable commercial aircraft, he said.
  • Boeing and Airbus currently dominate the aircraft manufacturing space along with a number of smaller players like Brazil's Embraer and Canada's Bombardier.
Bernard Charles, chief executive officer of Dassault Systemes SA.
Simon Dawson | Bloomberg | Getty Images

It will take China more than a decade to create a globally competitive, homegrown airplane maker that can go head-to-head with the likes of Boeing and Airbus, according to an industry veteran.

Aerospace is a complex industry and it takes time, even for well-established companies, to accumulate knowledge and know-hows to build reliable commercial aircraft, Bernard Charles, vice chairman and CEO of Dassault Systemes, said Thursday.

"I think it will take China one or two generations of airplanes to have a truly worldwide competitive product but it's a logical evolution, provided the market size of the country," he told CNBC's Martin Soong at the Boao Forum in China.

Dassault Systemes sells software to plane makers that help them digitalize their businesses. The idea is that by embracing more technology into daily operations, those manufacturers can bring down the cost of the jets, use resources more efficiently and ramp up production to meet demand.

At the moment, U.S.-based Boeing and European plane maker Airbus dominate the aircraft manufacturing space along with a number of comparatively smaller players like Brazil's Embraer and Canada's Bombardier.

China ambitions

For its part, Beijing is planning to get in on the action with the state-owned Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China (Comac) that's based in Shanghai. That could potentially reduce the country's dependence on the likes of Boeing and Airbus.

Currently, Comac has two narrow-body jets, the ARJ21 and C919, and one wide-body plane, the C929, in various stages of production and development.

In 2015, the company said it had delivered its first ARJ21 jet to a domestic low-cost carrier. The first C919 jet is expected to be delivered by 2021 and is currently undergoing flight tests.

Comac uses Dassault Systemes' products at its major research centers.

"The team from the 919 selected our design software," Charles said, referring to the people working on the Comac C919 aircraft. "It shows that this kind of highly sophisticated industry, it's not only a question of toolset or buying digital infrastructure. It's also about organization, it's also about knowledge or know-how."

Boeing crisis

Boeing is currently facing global scrutiny after two fatal crashes involving its 737 Max planes operated by airlines in Indonesia and Ethiopia, which killed more than 300 people on board. The plane has been grounded since mid-March and Boeing is working to fix those issues.

Charles, for his part, said he trusts the issue will be resolved in time.

"If you remember the (Airbus A) 320 at the beginning of its life had also some challenges and they solved it," he said, adding, "It is happening to all companies in this sector — very complex programs, very complex objects and the ramp up is always a challenge."