Opportunities should be created by new and upgraded Chinese civil aircraft, resulting in local development and production before turning to supplying the international market, says Colin Mahoney, senior vice president of Rockwell Collins’s international business. Collins has cemented three joint ventures in China over the past 12 months, he notes.
Other Western companies working with the avionics and electromechanical systems subsidiaries of Avic are taking much the same approach, usually for the same reasons: there is more profit in a business that has enough scale and know-how to address the international market than there is in one that is limited to one or even several Chinese programs. Chinese partners, too, do not want to just stay at home.
For Rockwell Collins, Mahoney says new activities could be within the current scope of a joint venture; if not, a joint venture could expand to take on a new role, or a new joint venture could be set up to do it.
For most suppliers, the biggest immediate prospect is the MA700 turboprop airliner from Xian-based Avic Aircraft. The aircraft program was formally launched in December.
Rockwell Collins is interested in participating in the MA700, says Mahoney, giving no details. He points out, however, that Rockwell Collins provides its Pro Line II avionics for Avic Aircraft’s MA60 and the Pro Line 21 suite for the latest version of that type, the MA600. “With Avic we are extremely close,” he says.
Other prospective Chinese programs for Western suppliers include the AC332, a 3.1-metric-ton (6,800-lb) helicopter from rotary-wing specialist Avicopter. Last October its development was due to be launched late last year or early this year; so far there has been no announcement. There is also a proposal for a helicopter of 4 to 5 tons gross weight, the AC312C, derived from the AC312 and, through it, ultimately from the Airbus Helicopters (originally Aérospatiale) Dauphin. Rockwell Collins supplies avionics for the AC312 and AC352
The U.S. company’s joint ventures in China include one with Avic Avionics unit Letri that will initially develop and make the integrated surveillance system for the Comac C919, a 158-seat airliner. With China Electronics Technology, a state firm that is not part of Avic, Rockwell Collins has a joint company for the C919’s communication and navigation system.
Perhaps the most important joint venture in China for Rockwell Collins is Accel (Tianjin) Flight Simulation, a partnership with Avic unit Beijing Bluesky Aviation Technology. Accel is absorbing all of Rockwell Collins’s commercial simulation business, and initial plans call for developing Boeing 737 and Airbus A320 simulators together for Asia-Pacific and beyond.