European aircraft manufacturer Airbus said it has been in close discussions with Chinese airlines, especially small and medium-sized carriers, for possible sales of its 100-to 150-seat, low-emission A220 aircraft, which are not yet in service in China.
The aircraft model is considered by aviation industry experts as suitable for flights in western China and second-tier cities in eastern China.
The single-aisle A220 fills the gap between regional-level aircraft like the domestically developed jetliner ARJ21 and single-aisle aircraft such as the A320 and the Boeing B737 that are used on both short and long-haul routes.
Airbus said among its single-aisle aircraft family, the A320 is equipped with 160 to 240 seats. The A319neo comes with 130 to 150 seats, and is mainly designed for airports in ultra-high plateau regions. The A220 is designed for airports located in regular plateau areas and plains.
"Among all Airbus aircraft models, the A220 boasts the highest number of Chinese elements-15 Chinese suppliers have been contributing to its manufacture, from providing raw materials and components to the assembly of big parts," said Yang Xiaoyu, Airbus' head of flyable procurement in China and East Asia.
"We will continue to localize the supply chain and reduce costs for the A220. This approach can help reduce international transportation logistics and significantly cut down the emission of carbon dioxide."
SAC Commercial Aircraft International Ltd, a subsidiary of Aviation Industry Corp of China, which is based in Shenyang, Liaoning province, serves as a major supplier, producing forward fuselages, rear barrel sections, hatch doors, tail cones and mid-fuselage of the A220.
So far, the A220 model has received 741 orders from more than 25 customers globally, including Delta Air Lines, Air Canada, Air France and Korean Air.
Airbus has been working hard to receive the airworthiness certificate for the A220 from the Civil Aviation Administration of China, the company said.
Currently, the monthly production rate of the A220 stands at six aircraft. Airbus aims to increase it to 14 by 2025. The company said it has already started preparations to realize its goal through close cooperation with its local suppliers.
In 2019, Airbus' annual spending on the commercial aircraft business in China reached about $1 billion. The company will continue to increase its investments in the country. In the near future, the procurement value related to the A220 is expected to account for about 40 percent of the total procurement value of Airbus in China, when A220 reached its full production rate of 14 aircraft a month.
Between 2015 and 2025, the government plans to build 136 new airports on the Chinese mainland. Nearly half of them will be built in western China, the CAAC said.
"Smaller cities in short-haul domestic markets need more direct flights to connect them, and the A220 is the type of aircraft suitable for such markets," said Xie Li, a professor at the Civil Aviation Management Institute of China.