Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Bloomberg: "China Wins Order for 100 C919 Jets"

In what was no doubt a hard fought win, state owned aircraft maker Commercial Aircraft Corp of China (COMAC) has managed to sell 100 C919s to state owned and (creatively named) aviation conglomerate and aircraft lessor Aviation Industry Corp (AVIC). Bloomberg's Margaret Conley who I thought was a business correspondent but now appears to be an intern from Bloomberg's Entertainment division calls the deal a "Win" and describes it as "breaking Airbus SAS and Boeing Co.’s stranglehold on the world’s second-largest market for new aircraft."

I guess Margaret is new to the industry but when one company owned by the Chinese government "sells" a product to another company that is owned by the Chinese government it is neither a "win" nor breaking what I imagine is a very sinister "strangle-hold."

The C919, better known as the ARJ21, is a copy of the vintage 1960s DC-9 family of aircraft and is actually being built with the same tools that McDonald Douglas once used to build MD-90s (a derivative of the DC-9). McDonald Douglas, in a fit of terminal shortsightedness, actually moved production of the MD-90 to China for a brief period of time (which is how China got the tooling) before they were acquired by Boeing. It's taken the Chinese a couple decades but with help from numerous foreign aerospace companies they have now cobbled together an aircraft that has a fuselage designed by McDonald Douglas, wings designed by Russian aircraft maker Antonov, engines designed by General Electric, a Fly-by-wire system made by Honeywell and Avionics made by Rockwell Collins. Despite contributing slightly more than nothing to the design China claims that the jet was designed by Chinese with completely independent intellectual property rights... which fits well with the Chinese government's philosophy that if it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck and looks like a duck... then it is indubitably a chicken... Until tomorrow when the government develops a need for caviar, then it will be a sturgeon.

The disconnect between reality and press release in Chinese aerospace continues to be downright farcical but no one will point it out. Outside of companies owned by China Inc.The ARJ21/C919 has managed to sell a total of two aircraft, both to hitherto unknown Vietnamese carrier Lao Air. I have no doubt that China will eventually become a serious competitor in the commercial aircraft sector but until then why don't we all stop pretending that the C919 is anything but a flying Frankenstein with bits and pieces sewn together from dead foreign designs. And of all companies Bloomberg is the one publishing this trash?? Somebody call the editor.

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