While China was able to blast its astronauts into space and send a submarine down into the depths of the sea, it has yet to build a successful jet engine. Previously, China has relied on Russia for advanced fighter aircraft. According to Reuters, Beijing is evaluating a 100 billion yuan plan to galvanize the engine research effort, which is dominated by the state-owned Aviation Industry Corporation of China:
The engine financing plan is under high-level discussion in Beijing, said Zhao Yuxing, an official at the securities office of Shanghai-listed Xi’an Aero-Engine Plc (600893.SS), a key military engine-making unit of AVIC. “What we know is our company has been included in the strategic programme, which is designed to greatly develop and support the engine industry,” he said by phone from his company’s headquarters in the northwestern city of Xi’an.
Some Chinese aviation industry specialists forecast that Beijing will eventually spend up to 300 billion yuan on jet engine development over the next two decades.
“China’s aircraft engines have obviously been under-invested,” said Wang Tianyi, a defence sector analyst with Shanghai’s Orient Securities. “One hundred billion yuan is not a huge amount of money in the engine world.”
Foreign engine manufacturers including General Electric (GE.N), Snecma, a subsidiary of French aerospace group Safran (SAF.PA), Rolls Royce Plc (RR.L) and Pratt & Whitney – a unit of United Technology Corp (UTX.N), jealously guard their industrial secrets, limiting the transfer of know-how and opportunities for intellectual property theft.
While the priority has been put on building military aircraft, China’s aviation industry is also interested in building commercial aircraft. Despite the plan to expand the budget for engine research, China is still reliant on foreign companies for its commercial planes. Boeing, an American company, recently delivered a new jet to Air China, from China Daily:
Chi Zhihang, vice-president and general manager of Air China North America, said the Boeing 777-300ER provides a better customer experience and offers more legroom for passengers.
The extended-range aircraft, which can fly up to 7,900 nautical miles (about 14,500 kilometers) before refueling, sports a distinctive paint job: Forty smiling faces of Chinese people adorn the exterior to honor the national aviation industry’s role in linking China to the world.
The airplane delivered Monday is the tenth of 19 Boeing 777-300ERs that Air China has ordered since 2008. The carrier received its first 777-300ER in the Chinese mainland in July 2011. Air China has been using the planes to expand routes, particularly in Europe.
See also China advances its aviation dream, via CDT.