China Hopes To Stand Out At Paris Air Show

Originally published on June 24, 2011 7:01 am
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Eleanor Beardsley sent this report.


ELEANOR BEARDSLEY: This week, the sounds of Chinese are part of the language mix on the tarmac at the Paris Air Show. And while the airplane orders game is still dominated by American and European giants Boeing and Airbus, all eyes are on COMAC, the Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China. COMAC has an exhibit space where a mock-up of the cabin of its C-919, medium-range passenger jet is on display.


BEARDSLEY: What does it mean for you to be at the Paris Air Show?


GUO BOZHI: We want to let everyone know that Chinese design a new, modern aircraft.

BEARDSLEY: Robert Wall, the international editor of Aviation Week laughs at the rumor, but he says the Chinese should be taken seriously, even if some wonder how efficient and safe their planes will be.

ROBERT WALL: In all fairness, the Chinese on aviation safety take things quite seriously. I think they realize they have no margin for error. If they get it wrong everyone will say, oh, there you go. We all knew this was going to be a, you know, a low-cost, crap product. So I don't expect them to cut corners. And again, they're working with Western suppliers who will make sure their reputation doesn't get tarnished by the Chinese.

BEARDSLEY: Olivier Hardy works for French company Dassault Systemes, which provides software to plane-makers.

OLIVIER HARDY: The Chinese market will require at least about 2,000 airplanes in the next 10 to 15 years. So we know that there will be a huge demand for that market. And we, you know, Europeans or Americans want a piece of that as well.

BEARDSLEY: Hardy says there's plenty of business to be done, because the Chinese have a big appetite for advanced technology.

HARRY KISKADDEN: Unidentified Woman: Yes.

BEARDSLEY: American Harry Kiskadden is trying to set up a meeting with COMAC executives. Kiskadden works for Alcoa, which makes aluminum components for planes.

KISKADDEN: We're delighted they're here. They're an up-and-coming player in the aerospace industry. I think everybody that does business in the aerospace industry should be excited to have them here.


BEARDSLEY: Lunch is in full swing at the air show trailer of a satellite- launching company. The lucrative commercial satellite-launching market is dominated by just two players, and again, they're European and American. The Chinese have been kept on the sidelines by a 1998 U.S. law that prohibits any satellite with American components from being launched by a Chinese rocket. No one here wants to talk about it, but should the law be rescinded, says aerospace consultant Alain Dupas, the competition will be rough.

ALAIN DUPAS: The Chinese have excellent rockets. They have a new generation of rockets coming, of very high quality and performance. And if they come back on the market, they will be cheaper.

BEARDSLEY: NPR News, I'm Eleanor Beardsley, in Paris. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.