Asian plane makers have thrown huge sums at building jets, but flagship projects have suffered repeated setbacks and they face a tough time breaking into a market dominated by established players.
As the Asia-Pacific region is the world’s biggest aviation market for commercial aircraft, Japanese and Chinese firms have embarked on programs to build their own airplanes.
Asia’s two biggest economies are home to a myriad of companies making high-tech goods, from cars to smartphones, which in many cases have succeeded in rivaling Western firms.
However, when it comes to building airplanes — which requires mammoth investment, years of painstaking development and rigorous safety standards — progress has been slow.
The companies at the forefront of the Asian drive, Japan’s Mitsubishi Aircraft Corp and Chinese state-owned manufacturer Commercial Aircraft Corp of China Ltd (COMAC, 中國商用飛機), have both seen their flagship projects delayed for years.
China “could be successful in 10-15 years, but at this time, the odds are not really in their favor,” said Shukor Yusof, founder of Malaysia-based aviation consultancy Endau Analytics.
“The international market is just too saturated with aircraft from the established manufacturers, so there’s very little space for new players,” Shukor said.
The Singapore Airshow, which is Asia’s biggest and ends today, has this week been — as ever — dominated by European plane maker Airbus SE, US manufacturer Boeing Co and a handful of smaller, mostly Western manufacturers.
Chinese manufacturers had a good reason for not making much of an impression — they were forced to pull out because of a ban on travelers from China due to an outbreak of COVID-19.
Mitsubishi was showing off a mock-up of the interior of its SpaceJet, the first version of which was originally due for commercial rollout in 2013.
After repeated delays, Japanese carrier All Nippon Airways Co Ltd had finally been scheduled to receive its first SpaceJet M90 in the middle of this year.
However, the model this month suffered its sixth delay, with the first delivery now expected next year at the earliest. The setbacks, due mainly to technical glitches, have raised the development cost for the plane to an estimated ￥800 billion (US$7.3 billion).
Steve Haro, vice president and head of global marketing and strategy at Mitsubishi, said that more than 900 changes have been made to the aircraft’s original design.
However, he added that a milestone had been reached, as the latest version was ready to be certified by regulators.
“We’re really at the place where we’re crossing the finish line of a very long race,” he said.
The plane is for short, regional flights — such as between a major hub and smaller airports inside the same country — and its main rivals are aircraft made by Brazil’s Embraer SA, he said.
“We’re not interested in competing with Boeing on the large airplanes, or Airbus. We see ourselves meeting a vital market segment that has really been ignored too long,” Haro said.
More than 400 orders have already been received for the M90 from around the world, he said.
Meanwhile, state-owned COMAC’s flagship jet has been delayed at least five years and analysts believe that it is likely to miss next year’s scheduled first delivery to a customer.
The single-aisle C919 is designed to compete with the Boeing 737 and Airbus A320, the favored workhorse of budget carriers.
There are 815 of the planes on order, largely from domestic carriers, COMAC said.
However, it will face particular challenges in winning approval from US and European regulators to operate internationally, and gaining public acceptance outside its home market, Shukor said.
The manufacturers are missing out on a boom in air travel in the Asia-Pacific region, where increasing affluence combined with cheaper flights mean the numbers of people flying regularly is soaring.
Demand for new aircraft is expected to exceed 39,000 over the next 20 years, with 42 percent of the deliveries to carriers in Asia, Airbus projections showed.
Still, delays are to be expected in the industry, Frost & Sullivan aviation specialist Janesh Janardhanan said.
“Aircraft are complex systems and some level of teething issues are common with new programs,” he said.
There is still room for new players, as passenger numbers are forecast to grow strongly, he said, but added: “Barriers to entry are high.”
DEVELOPING TALENT: The electronics contractor is looking to recruit people to work in core tech fields and emerging industries like electric cars and robotics Hon Hai Precision Industry Co (鴻海精密), the world’s largest contract electronics maker, has launched a recruitment drive, offering a monthly salary of no less than NT$45,000 (US$1,485) to university graduates. For those with a master’s degree, the starting pay would be NT$52,000 per month at the minimum, while doctorate degree holders would receive at least NT$60,000 a month, Hon Hai said a statement issued early this week. The latest recruitment drive is aimed at attracting talent in core technology fields — artificial intelligence, semiconductors and next-generation mobile communications — and emerging industries — electric vehicles, digital healthcare and robotics, the
MRT TRAVEL FALLS: In February, ridership on the Taipei MRT System fell 8.96 percent from an average of 2.01 million per day in January Scooter sales jumped 13 percent last month as more commuters turned to two-wheelers to avoid public transportation amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the latest statistics showed. Sales expanded to 74,493 units last month, compared with 65,913 units in February, statistics released on Wednesday by Kwang Yang Motor Co (光陽工業) and the Ministry of Transportation and Communications showed. In the first quarter, aggregate sales slid 0.51 percent year-over-year to 186,627 units, from 187,580 units, data showed. Kwang Yang, the nation’s biggest scooter manufacturer, continued to lead the market by selling 24,136 vehicles last month, growing 6.12 percent from 20,785 units in the previous month, while
Asustek Computer Inc (華碩), the nation’s leading PC vendor, yesterday launched its first dual-screen gaming laptop powered by Intel Corp’s latest central processing units (CPUs). The PC manufacturer’s announcement closely followed the US chipmaker’s unveiling of its 10th Generation Core H-series, the fastest commercial mobile processors with speeds of up to 5 gigahertz. Although Asustek’s Zephyrus Duo 15, the highlight of its Republic of Gamers line, is not the company’s first laptop with two screens, it is its first designed specifically for gaming. Nestled between the primary display panel and the keyboard, the secondary display, which Asustek calls the ScreenPad Plus, is angled
NO ILL EFFECT: Last month’s data mainly reflected deals made in February, when the spread of COVID-19 was still relatively mild in Taiwan, housing brokers said Housing transactions in the six special municipalities totaled 19,824 units last month, up 7.8 percent from a year earlier, brokers said, citing government data. Last month’s data mainly reflected deals made in February, when the pinch of the COVID-19 pandemic was not yet evident, they said. Taoyuan posted the largest improvement, with housing transactions soaring 36.6 percent year-on-year to 3,676 units, local government data showed. Taiwan Realty Co (台灣房屋) attributed the pickup to the completion of two presale residential projects in the municipality. Houses in Taoyuan have increasingly gained in popularity in the past few year years due to relatively affordable home prices and