Can Sino-Russia dream break Boeing, Airbus dominance?

Can Sino-Russia dream break Boeing, Airbus dominance?

By David Onjili

Boeing and Airbus continue to enjoy an enviable duopoly in the aviation market. There are other players like Embraer and Bombardier but their market share is that – small. This, however, may soon change with China and Russia coming together to bring forth the CRAIC CR929 formerly known as the Comac C929. During the Beijing International Aviation Expo in Beijing in mid-September, the proposed model was displayed for guests to view.

The joint venture between the Chinese Comac and Russian United Aircraft Corporation (UAC) seeks to roll out the long-range 250-320 seater wide-body twin-jet plane. Richard Aboulafia, an aerospace analyst with Teal Group acknowledges that Comac, a state-run enterprise, may have a head start in trying to undo the Boeing and Airbus dominance.

Aviation is a highly capital intensive venture and many players who have tried to venture into it have not succeeded in penetrating the existing dominance. That Boeing and Airbus, who have made some costly blunders up to this point, still stay perched at the top is quite telling. Boeing has grounded their 737 Max jets following the Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines crashes that killed several hundred after it was discovered that they had a fault in the flight system. 

On the other hand, Airbus grounded their A380 superjumbos after they only managed to sell a quarter of their projected 1200 planes. The A380 was a behemoth and Airbus had banked on the future of aviation is in a single plane able to carry some 700 passengers; it failed. It is incredulous that the two are still unchallenged.

Interestingly, aviation experts are noting that with close to 40 percent of new commercial plane orders and deliveries coming from the Asia Pacific region, Comac may just have the ingredients to claim as much as ten percent of market share, which would be a significant turnaround in the industry.

Breaking even will be difficult initially, considering starting costs such as the cost of training pilots and crew, spare parts, which come with specific plane models, and convincing airlines make the switch; it is a huge gamble.

It remains to be seen how this will play out, given that the Bombardier C Series and Embraer E2, designed as single-aisle jets had to cede majority ownership to the big two to stay afloat. 

Initial plans by Comac to enter the market in 2025 seem have been delayed because of, among others, a decision in choosing which engines – GE or Rolls Royce – to fit to the planes.

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