European aircraft manufacturer Airbus said since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, it has been rebuilding and diversifying its global supply chain and cooperating with more Chinese enterprises, as it has confidence in the manufacturing quality offered by its Chinese suppliers.
In late September, the Airbus Beijing Engineering Center, its research and technology center based in Beijing, forged partnership with two high-tech Chinese enterprises for research and development of the applications of coconut fibers in aircraft seat cushions.
The two Chinese companies are Jiatai Aircraft Equipment Co Ltd and Tianjin Shenglong Fiber Co Ltd.
Coconut fiber is a natural material. Owing to its lightweight and high-strength properties, its use in aircraft seat cushions could minimize resource use and optimize waste disposal. The three parties will leverage their expertise to design, manufacture and prepare the demo part for the green aircraft seat cushion based on flame-retardant coconut fiber.
“China’s aviation industry players serve as important parts of Airbus’ global supply chain, and they have contributed significantly in terms of the technology cooperation with Airbus,” said George Xu, Airbus’ executive president and its China CEO.
“China has a large number of competitive enterprises that excel at artificial intelligence and digitalization. Airbus hopes to cooperate with them if there are right opportunities,” he said.
Jiatai Aircraft Equipment was founded in 1995 and focuses on development and sales of commercial aircraft seating and cabin interior products. Tianjin Shenglong Fiber, established in 2005, mainly produces composite elastic products using plant fibers as raw materials. It produces commercial vehicle seat back cushions and household mattresses.
Airbus said it has been forming a vertical integration supply chain in China, its largest market. Currently, it has more than 200 suppliers in China, including 23 tier-one suppliers, and Airbus purchases parts and components from them directly.
Purchasing raw materials, doing the parts assembly and delivering the aircraft in China can help Airbus to significantly lower the costs of transportation and raise efficiency, the company said.
Meanwhile, Airbus Helicopters, a subdivision of Airbus and the largest global helicopter manufacturer, said it remains confident about future prospects in China and is determined to better support its Chinese customers.
In late September, Airbus Helicopters signed an agreement with State Grid General Aviation Co to enhance its support and services capability with more localized solutions.
The agreement will enable SGGAC to expand the activities at its existing center of maintenance, repair and overhaul of aircraft. The center has become an officially certified Airbus Helicopters customer service center since 2018, and it is responsible for H125 helicopter maintenance.
Currently, SGGAC operates China’s largest H125 fleet of 15 such aircraft. The expanded authorization will further improve reassembly services for Airbus’ Chinese customers and enhance H125 fleet development in the country, Airbus said.
Airbus Helicopters said despite the pandemic, its commitment in China remains unchanged. Since March 2020, the number of flying hours of Airbus Helicopter’s Chinese customers started to pick up. In the second quarter of last year, the flying hours in China exceeded that of the previous year, indicating the strength of China’s helicopter market, it said.
In addition, to serve a growing size of Airbus fleet in China, Airbus has signed cooperation agreements with local partners in several areas. They include component repairs, training, flight operations support and services, fleet management, supplier management, repair engineering, technical data and the management of inventory.
In late September, China Southern Airlines and Airbus agreed to co-develop new service solutions. The cooperation will cover areas in connected cabin, cabin experience, digitalization, flight operations and aircraft maintenance. The two sides will work together to explore sustainable green aviation.
Meanwhile, Eastern Airlines Technic, a subsidiary of China Eastern Airlines, signed an agreement with Airbus to enhance cooperation in engineering technology, maintenance training and spares materials.
“The increasing investment of Airbus in China has demonstrated its recognition of Chinese suppliers’ manufacturing skills and the capacity of the civil aviation industry chain in China. It also shows Airbus’ recognition of China’s investment environment,” said Zou Jianjun, a professor at the Civil Aviation Management Institute of China.
Airbus’ continued investment in China in the past decade has helped lifted its market share in the country to about 53 percent now and steal a march over its US rival Boeing Co.
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