Airbus closed 2009 on a positive commercial note with orders for 85 aircraft received in December–27 from Asia-Pacific customers, including 16 A330-200s for China Eastern Airlines, 10 A320s for Air New Zealand and one A320 for Zest Airways of the Philippines. Despite the continuing weakness of the world economy, the European airframer expects to maintain 2010 orders and deliveries at 2009 levels, especially to China.
China Eastern Airlines
The first A320 aircraft assembled outside Europe at the Airbus Final Assembly Line China (FALC) in Tianjin, China, completed its first flight on May 18, a little more than a month before scheduled first delivery to Dragon Aviation Leasing customer Sichuan Airlines. The milestone flight came amid aggressive moves to spark a recovery of China’s airline industry with direct government funding and loans.
The first business jet hub in China is expected to open this year at Shanghai Hongqiao Airport. Hongqiao Airport Business Aviation Center, a joint venture between the Shanghai airport authority and Hawker Pacific of Australia, will be able to handle as many as 6,000 aircraft movements a year. Meanwhile, Chinese officials continue to work on opening up China’s airspace to allow more private aircraft flights in the country.
China’s Joy Air has ordered three Modern Ark 60 (MA-60) jets and is negotiating to buy 10 advanced MA-600s. Manufacturer Xi’an Aircraft International said the Civil Aviation Flight University of China has also ordered two MA-600s. Established in March this year, Joy Air is a joint venture of China Aviation Industry Corp. I and China Eastern Airlines.
The Civil Aviation Authority of China (CAAC) has approved plans by China Eastern Airlines and aerospace consortium AVIC I to establish a new regional airline based in Xian. Named Xingfu (Happy) Airlines, the enterprise would involve a 40-percent investment by China Eastern, while AVIC I–the maker of the ARJ21 regional jet–takes the remaining 60 percent.
The Greek government has conditionally accepted Axon Airlines’ bid to purchase a controlling stake in Olympic Airways, the country’s flag carrier. Details of the buyout likely will not surface for up to three months, while talks take place between Axon and the Greek government on such matters as the controversial planned downsizing among the company’s 6,000 employees.
Embraer commercial vice president Fred Curado told AIN last month that he expected an order from China Eastern Airlines for 10 Harbin-Embraer ERJ 145s “sooner rather than later.” The contract would come as a blow to Bombardier, which has already delivered eight CRJ200s to China Eastern, one of which crashed into a frozen lake outside Baotou, Mongolia, on November 23, killing 53.
Bombardier CRJ200, Inner MongolIa, China, Nov. 21, 2004–Only 12 seconds after taking off from Baotou en route to Shanghai, the CRJ operated by China Eastern Airlines as Flight Mu5210 crashed into an ice-covered lake in the Nanhai Park, killing the six crewmembers, 47 passengers and apparently two park workers on the ground.
Swiss-based independent maintenance organization SR Technics and Okay Airways, China’s first privately owned airline, have agreed to form a maintenance joint venture in Tianjin, China. The new facility will provide aircraft services, fleet technical management and component support for Boeing and Airbus aircraft operated by both existing airlines and new start-ups.
The Chinese government has acknowledged that although China’s airlines have improved in airline management and operations, they still lag their major Asian competitors. China’s entry into the World Trade Organization and its continuing march toward a market economy present significant challenges to its airline industry.