Rival Chinese and US planemakers partner to set up Beijing energy conservation and emissions reduction research project
Wed 7 March 2012 – Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China (COMAC) and Boeing have announced a collaboration agreement to set up a research centre in Beijing that will aim to improve commercial aviation’s energy efficiency and reduce the sector’s greenhouse gas emissions. The two rivals will create and jointly fund the Boeing-COMAC Aviation Energy Conservation and Emissions Reduction Technology Center, and the agreement also allows for annual leadership engagements and the exchange of market forecasts. COMAC is due to launch a narrowbody rival to the Boeing 737 in 2016 and secure a share of one of the world’s fastest-growing aviation markets as Chinese passenger traffic grows an estimated five times its present size by 2030.
“Our new Technology Center shows that two companies in a competitive industry can partner to make progress on important challenges that cannot be solved by one company alone. That is good for customers and passengers, and it’s the right thing to do,” said Boeing Commercial Airplanes President and CEO Jim Albaugh, who signed the agreement with COMAC’s Chairman Jin Zhuanglong and President He Dongfeng.
The facility will be located at COMAC’s Beijing Civil Aircraft Technology Research Center and the two companies will also collaborate and fund projects with Chinese universities and research institutions to expand knowledge of new technologies, including sustainable aviation biofuels. Boeing is already actively involved in biofuel projects in China and worked with Air China on the carrier’s first biofuel demonstration flight last October (see article).
“This milestone agreement between Boeing and COMAC follows four decades of Boeing partnership with airlines, government agencies, suppliers and research institutions to support the development of China’s aviation industry,” said Marc Allen, President of Boeing China. “Our hope is that innovative emissions-reduction technologies developed through the Boeing-COMAC Center will advance aviation in China and around the world.”
The Civil Aviation Administration of China has forecast that passenger traffic in the nation will exceed 300 million this year and expects it to reach 1.5 billion in 2030. Demonstrating the importance of the Chinese market to Boeing, the US aircraft manufacturer has estimated the country’s airlines will need to buy 5,000 new airplanes to meet this demand.
It will face competition in the narrowbody market from COMAC’s 168- to 190-seat C919 that is due to enter service in 2016, although some analysts are predicting a slippage by up to two years, which will bring it up against Boeing’s re-engined 737 MAX due to enter service in late 2017. The engine for the C919 will be CFM’s LEAP-X1C and the aircraft is expected to deliver emissions reductions of around 15%, similar to those promised by the MAX.
Noise levels of the C919 are promised to be cut in half compared to current production CFM56 engines, with NOx levels meeting CAEP/6 requirements with a 50% margin.