Safran helps booming Chinese aerospace industry
The maiden flight of the C919, the first commercial aircraft with over 100 seats designed and manufactured by the Chinese aircraft manufacturer COMAC, took place in the skies over Shanghai May 5th. This marked a milestone for the booming Chinese aerospace industry, as well as for Safran, as it is supplying several pieces of equipment used on board this aircraft, including the propulsion systems. We caught up with Olivier Dubroeucq, Executive Vice President of the COMAC & AVIC Programs and Deputy Executive Vice President of Shared Services in China.
What does the maiden flight of the C919 represent for Safran?
For China, the maiden flight of the C919 is a big political event, showing its desire for technological independence. The maiden flight of the C919 is the culmination of a project which saw Safran work hand in hand with COMAC since 2008. It is also the symbol of a successful collaboration with the Chinese aerospace industry and the pinnacle of the long-standing commitment of the Group in China and all of the teams involved in the project.
What is Safran's position in China?
With over 5,000 engines on order or commitment in Greater China, including more than 1,000 LEAP-1C engines worldwide, CFM International* has become a leading supplier in the Chinese aerospace industry. It is the product of an active development policy which has been implemented by Safran for over 40 years. The Group employs over 1,800 employees within twenty or so entities in China. In Suzhou, near Shanghai, Safran Aircraft Engines manufactures the low-pressure turbines for the CFM56 and LEAP engines.
On the same site, Safran Landing Systems manufactures landing gear parts Safran also boasts a foundry in Guiyang, where some of the parts of the CFM56 engine are produced, and where the parts of the LEAP engine will be produced in the future. A preparation-engine line, located at the COMAC production site in Shanghai, provides a means of preparing all of the propulsion systems before they are fitted to the aircraft. Lastly, the electrical harnesses and thrust reverser components are manufactured by joint ventures set up with players in the Chinese aerospace industry. The Group comprises several maintenance centers.
What equipment is Safran supplying for the C919?
Through its joint ventures with GE (CFM International for the engines, Nexcelle** for the nacelles), the Group is supplying the whole propulsion system of the C919, comprising the LEAP-1C engine, and nacelle for which the electric thrust reverser manufactured by Safran Nacelles incorporates the Electrical Thrust Reverser Actuator System (ETRAS) which is an excellent example of technical collaboration between the Group's companies. Safran is also supplying the Electrical Wiring Interconnection Systems (EWIS), through the joint venture with COMAC, Shanghai SAIFEI Aviation EWIS Manufacturing Co. Ltd, as well as the power transmission system for the engines.
What makes the equipment particularly innovative?
The propulsion system is built around the LEAP, the very latest generation of engines for short- and medium-haul aircraft. Lighter and more efficient than the previous generation, it provides a means of cutting fuel consumption by 15%, Nitrogen dioxide (NOx) emissions by 50% and it also reduces the noise footprint.
What is also innovative is supplying an integrated propulsion system, comprising the engines as well as all related equipment. This is a first in the industry, foreshadowing a strong market trend. Indeed, offering a "turnkey" propulsion system enables us to manage constraints, interfaces and compromises related to engine and nacelle design more effectively. It also allows us to deliver an even better product to the customer.
* CFM is a 50/50 joint venture between Safran Aircraft Engines and GE.
** Nexcelle is a joint venture between Safran Nacelles (Safran) and Middle River Aircraft Systems (GE)
The Chinese aerospace market in figures
The domestic Chinese market will be the biggest in terms of volume in 2035, ahead of the European and North American markets. By then, it will have quadrupled with a growth rate of over 6% per year compared with a forecasted rate of 4.3% for the growth of world traffic. Lastly, the capacities of airports and the number of aircraft used by the fifty or so companies operating in the country, will significantly increase. As a result, China will become the second biggest contributor to world air traffic, close behind Europe.