Not content with making cars and computers for the world, China is now on to its next big thing — aircraft. The long-awaited ARJ-21 (pictured here) is China’s very first homegrown commercial aircraft and has been launched amid much fanfare by the aircraft maker AVIC I. Now only a name is lacking, and if you can come up with a creative Chinese name of between two and four Chinese characters before September 28, RMB50,000 will be yours! (Sorry apparently English names are worth nothing).
The state-owned AVIC I aims to rival other makers of smaller passenger jets such as Canada’s Bombardier and Brazil’s Embraer, and a BusinessWeek report says the ARJ-21 is expected to grab up to “60 percent of the domestic market for mid-size regional airliners over the next 20 years”. We have no doubt that will swiftly come to pass since almost all airlines in China are state-owned, but lest you think the China-made jets will only have a market domestically, AVIC I has already delivered the first two of 15 MA60 jets (another of its planes which can seat 50-60 passengers) to Indonesia’s Merpati Nusantara Airlines. Nine MA60s have also been delivered to Zimbabwe, Laos, Zambia and the Republic of Congo. A humble beginning perhaps, but who knows where they’ll go next!
In other aviation news
1. Change is in the air. In the first acquisition in one of the big three Chinese carriers by a foreign airline, Singapore Airlines and its parent Temasek Holdings will pay about US$930 million for a combined 24% stake in China Eastern. The deal will give China Eastern “much-needed cash and access to a global network, while Singapore Airlines will get a foothold in China’s growing market”.
2. And even as Air China announced its first half net profit has more than tripled from a year earlier, its President Cai Jianjiang has made comments that it will not preclude the possibility of merging with rivals such as China Southern. In light of recent changes in the domestic aviation market, one wonders how passengers like you and me will benefit from it all. The next thing we know, China Eastern will announce a merger with Shanghai Airlines!
3. And for those of you who have been frustrated by your attempts to use your frequent flyer miles in China, you will be happy to know that Air China and Shanghai Airlines will be joining the Star Alliance and China Southern Airlines is due to join SkyTeam later this year!
BusinessWeek: China soliciting names for homemade jet
China Daily: Indonesian airline awaits Chinese planes
China.org.cn: Air Travel Trend Opens Up Skies for AVIC I
Wall Street Journal: China Airline Deal Is Estimated At $930 Million
AP: Air China Says 1H Net Profit Up 3-Fold
Shanghaiist: Why have air ticket prices gone up?
FlightGlobal.com: China’s growth challenge
Picture of ARJ-21 jet from xmyzl.com