Skift Take

China’s ambitions for COMAC to rival Airbus and Boeing will probably take decades to achieve. One of the largest aircraft lessors in the world said it currently wouldn’t buy a COMAC commercial aircraft.

The executive chairman of Air Lease, one of the largest aircraft lessors in the world, said the company isn’t planning to buy China’s C919 jets. 

“The CCP and COMAC are very interested in selling the C919,” said Air Lease executive chairman Steven Udvar-Hazy at the Wings Club in New York on Thursday. “But it’s a one-way dating relationship.”

COMAC, China’s state-owned aircraft manufacturer, debuted the C919 internationally at the Singapore Air Show. The manufacturer pitched the narrowbody jet as a competitor to the Airbus A320 and Boeing 737 Max, but so far, it’s had a lukewarm reception. 

Christian Scherer, the CEO of Airbus’ commercial aircraft division, previously said the C919 was “not going to rock the boat.”

COMAC said it has 1,000 orders in its books for the C919, but they are mainly from Chinese aircraft leasing companies and airlines. Plus, Airbus and Boeing — which essentially have a duopoly in commercial aircraft manufacturing — have orders booked through the end of the decade. 

While Boeing and Airbus currently don’t view the C919 as competition, Boeing’s Asia-Pacific commercial marketing managing director Dave Schulte said the U.S. plane maker is factoring in competition from the C919 in its long-term forecasts, according to CNBC

A Long Shot for the C919

Udvar-Hazy also said he did not believe the Federal Aviation Administration or the European Union Aviation Safety Agency would even approve the C919 for commercial flying. 

“I do not believe at this point in time that the FAA and the AASA would certify the 919 and its current state for export,” he said. 

The Air Lease executive chairman pointed to a lack of infrastructure to make the C919 commercially viable in international markets, saying the jet doesn’t have a global support structure or technical support training. 

“Look how long it took for Airbus to develop that,” Udvar-Hazy said. “Without that, there’s no export market. Without an export market, how do you value a 919? What is a 919 worth 10 years from now?”

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Tags: Air Lease Corp., airbus, Boeing, china, COMAC

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