Airbus has opened its Chinese completion plant for A330 jets, with hopes that an increased presence in the world's fastest growing aviation market will help boost demand for the firm's profitable but ageing wide-body jets. David Pollard reports.
The launch this year of the home-grown C919 passenger jet was seen as clear expression of China's ambitions towards a global jet market. But for now, it's also happy to let others manufactures operate on its home patch. Airbus's new completion plant in Tianjin, is where the European planemaker's wide-bodied A330 gets fully baked. With painting, cabin installations and flight tests on aircraft delivered from its assembly line in France. And here's one they prepared earlier - an already completed aircraft for Tianjin Airlines .... (SOUNDBITE) (English) AIRBUS GLOBAL CEO OF COMMERCIAL AIRCRAFT FABRICE BREGIER, SAYING: "There will be more demand for wide bodies. Which is the reason why we have invested in a cabin completion centre in China." Airbus - Europe's largest aerospace firm - already has a final assembly line for single-aisle A320 jets in Tianjin. One estimate sees Chinese passenger demand growing by nearly seven per cent per annum - for the next twenty years. That compares to just over four and half per cent globally - and would see China soon become the biggest market in the world. As Airbus - and its biggest rival, Boeing - seek a foothold. (SOUNDBITE) (English) AIRBUS GLOBAL CEO OF COMMERCIAL AIRCRAFT FABRICE BREGIER, SAYING: "I believe we have achieved a little bit more than 50 percent market share, we can probably grow a bit higher but there will always be global balance between the two leaders of this market" The new Airbus plant is a joint venture that includes the Aviation Industry Corporation of China. For its part, Boeing has said it'll build a plant in the east of the country, with planemaker Commercial Aircraft Corp of China. With for both of them, the 919 as potential competition. To both Airbus's A320 - and the 737 Boeing wants to complete there.