Aerospace giants Boeing and Airbus took potshots at one another at the Zhuhai air show, as the U.S. and European rivals seek to capture more of China's booming aircraft market. China is one of the Western manufacturers' key battlegrounds, with its travellers taking to the skies in ever-growing numbers. The country's airlines will need nearly 6,000 new planes worth $945 billion over the next two decades, Airbus said in its 2016-2035 Global Market Forecast. Boeing's expectations are even more optimistic, for 6,800 aircraft costing $1 trillion. To win favour locally both have built partnerships with Chinese firms. Airbus has a completion and delivery centre in Tianjin, where workers install furnishings and apply paint to aircraft for the domestic market. It also buys parts such as exit doors, brake blades and wing sections from Chinese suppliers. Boeing is planning to open a facility with the state-owned Commercial Aircraft Corp. of China (COMAC) to paint and install cabins for 737-model planes, the Chinese firm said.
Eric Chen, president of Airbus China, dismissed the Seattle firm's plan as "close to one generation" behind his own firm, saying it was following Airbus's strategy "with a lot of reluctance." "I got two impressions," he said at a briefing at the China Airshow in Zhuhai, the industry's biggest event in the country. "First one, the decision we made 10 years ago was right. The second impression is that we are well in advance of our competitor."
Darren Hulst, managing director for Northeast Asia marketing at Boeing, earlier told reporters that the Airbus A350 fell short of the 787 widebody plane in range, capacity, carbon emissions, window size and aerodynamics. "The 787 is capable and has technology and features built into it that are not available on the A350, which was obviously introduced later into the market," he said. He added the company had 14 China deliveries of 787-9s in 2016 and had secured orders and commitments for 46 more.
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