China ‘needs 6,100 passenger jets over next 20 years’

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A China Southern Airlines Boeing 777 passenger jet is seen at Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport. Photo: Zhang Yimo/ planespotters.net

China’s civil aviation industry will need to procure more than 6,100 aircraft over the next two decades, according to a report by Aviation Industry Corp of China.

The report, released on Thursday, estimates that by 2036, the nation’s combined fleet of passenger jets will hit the 7,000 mark, from the current level of 2,818.

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A China Cargo Airline 747-400. Photo: Wong Chi Lam/planespotters.net

The number of cargo jets is also tipped to rise fivefold, from 132 to 748.

Around 488 million Chinese people traveled by air in 2016, and the nation’s airports handled 6.68 million tons of cargo, up 11.9% and 6.2% respectively. In 2016 Chinese airlines bought a total of 300 planes.

China is poised to overtake the United States as the world’s largest civil aviation market in two years’ time.

Though single-aisle, narrow-body jets will continue to make up the bulk of the fleet over the next 20 years, China may buy more wide-body airliners than any other country, as more Chinese carriers open long-haul intercontinental routes to the Americas, Europe and even Africa.

Currently, the Guangzhou-based China Southern Airlines is the nation’s biggest carrier by fleet size, yet just 86 out of its 548 planes are categorized as wide-body jets, according to aviation data cruncher PlaneSpotters. Similarly, only 71 out of China Eastern’s 483 planes have more than one aisle.

A US$37 billion deal to buy 300 planes from Boeing, including 40 787s and 777s, was inked during US President Donald Trump’s visit to Beijing this month.

And in July, a US$22.8-billion deal was signed in Germany for 140 Airbus planes.

The first C919 passenger jet made by the Commercial Aircraft Corp of China (Comac) is pulled out at the company's factory in Shanghai. Photo: Reuters/Stringer

A 2016 file photo showing the first C919 passenger jet made by the Commercial Aircraft Corp of China (Comac) being pulled out at the company’s factory in Shanghai. Photo: Reuters/Stringer

While on a spree buying planes from the two firms, Beijing also aims to meet the buoyant demand with jets made at home.

Following its maiden flight in May, C919, the nation’s first domestically made narrow-body passenger jet, is undergoing tests with the aim of entering commercial service within three to five years. Chinese airlines have placed more than 160 firm orders already.

Beijing is also joining hands with Moscow for the joint development of a wide-bodied model called the CR929, whose initial external design was unveiled last year.

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