When the big dots are connected it is clear Boeing is very close to sealing a key deal to set up a 737 completion and delivery facility in China.
China’s President Xi Jingping习近平 is visiting Boeing in Seattle next week on 23 September, at the start of his first state visit to the US.
Such visits are inevitably the culmination of extensive agreement on wide ranging issues, to be formally announced when they take place.
The inclusion of Boeing (in Seattle not Chicago) in the program is in sync with earlier and very detailed stories on the probability of the US aircraft maker securing a strategically vital agreement to fly some ‘green’ 737s from their assembly lines to China, perhaps to a centre in Xiamen, for the high value and time consuming requirement for final fitting out and pre-delivery flight testing.
This likely move was reported in extensive detail in Aviation Week recently. It would benefit Boeing by allowing it to ramp up production of 737s in Seattle more rapidly by freeing factory and support assets at a time when the US jet maker, like its Airbus competitor, is under strong pressure to deliver more single aisle airliners and sooner to customers who have ordered more than 7000 new tech versions of the 737 and A320 families combined.
Unlike Boeing, Airbus also has a final assembly line for its single aisle jets for China customers in operation, in Tianjin. Yet like Boeing, Airbus is also pursuing a completion facility in the PRC, but for wide body A330s, with a framework agreement already struck between the European jet maker and China.
In short, the world’s big two airliner makers are very keen on co-operating rather than competing with China. This applies to the supporting zoology of their engine makers, systems suppliers, and associated training enterprises for pilots and maintenance and repair technicians. China’s COMAC state airliner maker is readying a 168 passenger single aisle jet, the c919 for service perhaps by the end of this decade. The c919 appears to be optimised for very short haul flights with a capacity closer to the smaller of the Boeing and Airbus single aisle families.
China’s demand for new airliners, mainly for expansion rather than replacement of existing fleets, is cautiously estimated as being well in excess of 6000 single aisle and medium sized wide body jets by 2034.
A detailed but more wide ranging report on the touch points for President Xi’s state visit to the US can be found here. It makes the scope of the China-Australia free trade deal seem rudimentary when it comes to owning and developing new technology industries in energy and communications.