China Gears to Create Own Aircraft Engine to Wean from Western Suppliers

Aug 31, 2016 05:00 AM EDT | Rubi Valdez

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In an attempt to divert from importing Western suppliers, Beijing has launched the Aero-Engine Corporation of China (AECC) comprised of existing aircraft engine companies. The 50 billion yuan of funds is allocated to develop both commercial and military plane engines.

BBC cited Xinhua news saying that President Xi Jinping is looking to position the country as a global aviation giant. Currently, China imports commercial aircraft engines from General Electric and United Technologies' Pratt and Whitney, while military plane engines are delivered by Russia.

"We will try to find a path along which we can make independent innovation in conducting fundamental research, making breakthroughs in key technology and producing strategic aircraft engines," said Liu Tingyi, president of the Chinese Aeronautical Establishment.

The state-owned AECC employs about 96,000 workers who will focus on design, manufacture, and testing of the engines. The company's major investors are the Aviation Industry Corp. of China and Commercial Aircraft Corp. of China.

Other stakeholders include AVIC Aviation Engine Corp., Sichuan Chengfa Aero-Science & Technology Co., and AVIC Aero-Engine Controls Co. The initiative is largely contributory to the improvement of the manufacturing industry specializing in aerospace engineering, robotics, biotechnology, and alternative energy, according to Wall Street Journal.

Premier Li Keqiang said the recent technological advancements would strengthen their military and manufacturing capabilities. However, Yahoo News cited industry experts saying that it will take years for China to develop engines needed to operate big passenger jets.

Over the last couple of years, China strived to become independent in many aspects of technology such as smartphones, computers, and robotics. Although Beijing has long been developing military jet engines, most of its passenger plane spare parts are outsourced.

For example, the 78- to 90-seater ARJ21 commercial plane uses engine manufactured by GE. The smaller C919 jetliner is powered by engines from CFM International - a subsidiary of GE and France-based Safran SA.

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