(Corrects byline, adds Beijing dateline)
By Fang Yan and Matthew Miller
ZHUHAI, China/BEIJING, Nov 12 (Reuters) - Canada’s Bombardier Inc could design and build passenger jets in China as an extension of a two-year-old development and sales deal with the country’s main state-owned planemaker, a senior executive told Reuters.
When the first phases of the 2012 accord with Commercial Aircraft Corp of China (COMAC) are complete, it may be natural to “do something more”, said Mike Arcamone, president of Bombardier’s commercial aircraft division. That could step up competition with Airbus and Boeing.
“We are thinking long-term in China,” Arcamone said, speaking late on Tuesday on the sidelines of China’s largest air show in Zhuhai. “One day we might decide to do a project together, a joint venture...Right now, we are only talking about collaboration.”
Bombardier is currently working with COMAC to develop common systems for both its own 150-seat CSeries plane and the Chinese firm’s long-awaited C919 narrow-bodied jet. The pair are working on cockpit and electrical systems, as well as the supply chain for the CSeries and the C919.
Behind schedule but due to be the first Chinese-built single-aisle commercial aircraft and racking up orders from domestic clients, the C919 will join with the CSeries in competing with the Airbus A320 and Boeing’s 737, in different market segments.
“The CSeries is smaller than the C919, they really do not compete head to head. There is always going to be some small overlap, but generally they are more complementary as a fleet mix,” said Andy Solem, Bombardier’s vice-president for sales in North Asia.
Bombardier has 243 firm orders for the CSeries, which can also take up to 180 passengers in a high-density variant aimed primarily at low-cost carriers. COMAC has orders for 430 C919s, mostly from domestic firms, though its first test flight has now been pushed back to 2015 from 2014.
Development of the Canadian firm’s CSeries has run into numerous delays and rising costs, with the flight test programme only resuming in September after an on-ground engine fire halted test in May. The company hopes to deliver the first aircraft in the second half of 2015.
Bombardier, which manufactures the CRJ series of regional jets, is also advising COMAC on its long-delayed ARJ-21 regional aircraft programme, stuck in the flight-test phase.
Addtional reporting and writing by Siva Govindasamy in SINGAPORE; Editing by Kenneth Maxwell and Miral Fahmy