China, always China – Is Avic group exaggerating?

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One can wonder: by constantly getting ahead of schedule, wanting to be on the top level as fast as possible, isn’t the Chinese aerospace industry going to upset us a little bit? And here it is effectively appearing uninvited in the Latécoère file, which is properly out of place. And in the same time, it gets its hooks into Cirrus, an American manufacturer of light aircraft.
We know that Latécoère has not been in good position for several months and it is probably desirable, even essential, that the company of Toulouse be backed by a powerful group. This would also be the occasion to set up a “Tier 1” big equipment manufacturer gathering the living French forces exaggeratedly fragmented. The debate is launched and anyway when the selection time comes, nobody will feel obliged to retain the Chinese proposal.
This is rather a question of principle which is set here. China, we all know that for fact, constitutes a fabulous potential market for western aerospace industrialists, because of its impressive economical growth, obviously, but also because it banks a lot on the development of its commercial aviation to accompany its growth. Then, Jacques Sabourin, General Delegate of the French airports Union, notes that not less than 78 new airports are programmed at the present time in China. Airbus, Boeing, engine manufacturers, equipment manufacturers, all of them are taking position and ranking.
One would answer that the short/medium range C919, a 150/200 seats aircraft to be delivered from 2016, appears as the first competitive threat. And beyond that, other programmes will attack undoubtedly European and American positions. It remains that it is appreciated and good form to consider China as a partner and not as a dangerous competitor, running the risk to deny some evidences.
Far from big manoeuvres involving a few old warhorses, other topics reveal a Chinese state of mind which begins slightly to irritate. Check book in hand, we observe the Avic group managers continuing endlessly a window-shopping everywhere. Inclusive, and unexpectedly, in the field of private aviation. This is how Teledyne Continental, a legacy engine manufacturer, has recently passed under Chinese control, after a transaction which allowed American investors making a good deal by continuing their quest for immediate profits. This event has been totally unnoticed.
The case was to be the same with Cirrus Aircraft, an aircraft manufacturer created in 1984, managed by a smart team who conceived a leisure composite planes range and imagined a personal single engine jet named Vision, a “very light jet”, at the present time on flying test procedures, proposed at $ 1,7 million. Almost 500 bookings have been recorded by Cirrus for this little jet but the firm is weakened by a deep lack of funds. The curious point is that the manufacturer passed a few years ago under the control of an investment funds of Bahrain, Arcapita.
Anyhow, Chinese people rushed at Cirrus to buy it out, a deal made short work and promptly settled. Of course, the course of aviation history is not thrown into confusion but nevertheless spirits are perturbed. And since nothing is final and signed, all of a sudden we witness an outcry, incidentally highly symbolic. This is an hostile reaction we could qualify as pleasant and constituting an action of mere economic patriotism.
Brian Foley, a consultant, is trying to organise a counter-attack by gathering investors so that Cirrus could remain an American property. To do that, an amount of around $ 200 million would be quickly collected. The purpose is not beyond reach and if successful, more than just this symbolic victory, may be China will understand that every body is expecting a more moderate behaviour.
Pierre Sparaco – AeroMorning
(Translated by Marina Rossi)

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