Chinese suppliers become key link in aviation industrial chain through cooperation
The nation’s manufacturers have become key link in aviation industrial chain through cooperation
Published: Jun 13, 2019 06:25 PM

The 10th anniversary of the Harbin Hafei Airbus Composite Manufacturing Center was celebrated in Harbin, Northeast China's Heilongjiang Province on June 6. Photo: Courtesy of Airbus

A lot can happen in 10 years - especially in China's rapidly developing aviation sector.

A decade ago, the cooperation between Airbus and Chinese partners in composite manufacturing was in a fledgling stage. 

But today, a joint venture (JV) between France-based Airbus and China's Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC) and Harbin Development Zone Infrastructure Development Co has become the sole composite structure supplier for some parts of the A350 XWB family of long-range jets.

Airbus last week celebrated the 10th anniversary of the JV, Harbin Hafei Airbus Composite Manufacturing Center (HMC), in composite manufacturing in Harbin, Northeast China's Heilongjiang Province, marking a milestone in Chinese manufacturing in the global aviation industrial chain.

HMC is now the sole composite structure supplier for A350 XWB rudders, elevators, belly fairing and S19 maintenance door work packages.

It is also responsible for 100 percent of all A320 single-aisle rudder shells and 80 percent of all rudder assemblies.

"The 10th anniversary is an important milestone for the manufacturing center and for our long-term partnership with the Chinese aviation industry," Francois Mery, Airbus Commercial Aircraft China COO, said at the ceremony to mark the anniversary. 

Gu Haicheng, vice president of AVIC and Chairman of the HMC Board, also hoped that both sides will continue working together to achieve greater success in the Hafei-Airbus project.

The factory started production with A320 work packages in December 2009. 

At the end of 2010, it started to manufacture components for the A350 XWB jets. Currently, the composite parts made in the factory account for 5 percent of the body of an A350.

HMC commenced production with A320 work packages in December 2009. At the end of 2010, it started to manufacture components for the A350 XWB. 

During the past 10 years, HMC has hit several milestones. 

For the A320 program, it delivered the 1,000th A320 rudder in June 2017, followed by the 2,000th delivery in May 2019. 

For the A350 XWB program, it delivered the 300th A350 XWB elevator, also in May 2019. The 300th A350 XWB rudder and 400th A350 XWB maintenance door will be delivered in the coming months.

Eric Ibanez, general manager of HMC, told the Global Times that the JV applies the most advanced composite material manufacturing technology and management experience, and the products can fully meet the requirements of Airbus in terms of technology and quality. 

The production capacity for A320 packages at HMC has reached 72 units per month, and the production of A350 XWB packages reached 10 units per month and will reach 13 units per month in the future.

Supplying the world 

Suppliers from China have been an important part in the global civil aircraft manufacturing industrial chain, including those from Harbin, Shenyang, and Chengdu. These suppliers have extended their services from components to materials and cabin interiors. 

Those fields used to be dominated by suppliers from Europe and the US.

"The value of industrial cooperation in China is expected to reach $1 billion by 2020, and the growing speed is further than our expectations," Mery said. "The Chinese market is growing quickly, and it will be the largest market one day, and we hope we can win enough market share here."

 "We hope we can get a greater market share in China, and our corporation will not stop here," he added.

Airbus has been present in China for several decades.

The cooperation with Chinese partners dated back from very small components in 1985, but cooperation is extending to more fields. 

In 2007, it started an A320 assembly factory in Tianjin and later expanded the cooperation agreement until 2025, with A320neo in its assembly line as well. 

By the end of 2018, the Tianjin factory had delivered 405 aircraft to the world.  

Mery said that the Tianjin factory is expected to deliver the first A330neo next year, and they are now in discussions to produce the A350.

Airbus is not alone.  

Boeing forecasts that China will need 7,690 new airplanes, valued at $1.2 trillion, by 2038.

Boeing also forecasts China will experience strong growth in the commercial services market with demand growing $1.5 trillion over the next 20 years, accounting for 17 percent of global demand.

China plays a major role in building the world's jetliners.

The Chinese aerospace manufacturing industry supplies parts for every Boeing jet, including the 737 MAX, the 777, and the 787 Dreamliner. 

In December, Boeing and the Commercial Aircraft Corp. of China are set to deliver the first 737 MAX airplane from a completion and delivery center in Zhoushan, China. 

The facility will handle interior work and exterior painting of 737 MAX aircraft for the Chinese market. Final assembly work will continue to be done at Boeing's factory in Renton, Washington.

Boeing activity in China is valued at more than $1 billion in economic activity. This includes procurement from Boeing's extensive supply base, joint venture revenue, operations, training, and research and development investment, according to a note sent to the Global Times earlier.