France is home to Airbus, one of the largest plane makers in the world, and also a key aviation partner in China.
The win-win relationship is expected to grow even stronger in the future as China, the world’s second-largest economy, may become the world’s largest aviation market.
Airbus predicts that China will leapfrog the United States and become a $1 trillion aviation market in less than 20 years.
The company has been investing locally in China since 1985. In 1996, Airbus teamed up with China Aviation Supplies and established its first local joint venture — Hua-Ou Aviation — a company that specializes in training and providing support to Airbus customers in China. Hua-Ou has helped Airbus’ Chinese partners train some 15,000 staff including pilots, flight attendants and maintenance workers.
Local assembly and completion facilities have also been established, and the Airbus’ A320 family assembly line in Tianjin can deliver 50 airplanes a year. The first A330 aircraft also rolled off from its completion center in Tianjin in September 2017.
“It presents a huge opportunity for us because we are here to provide aircraft and associated services to our Chinese customers,” said Francois Mery, the Chief Operating Officer for Airbus Commercial Aircraft China.
In addition, Airbus is also looking to start exchanging thoughts with its Chinese competitors like COMAC in uncompetitive domains such as aircraft management and market studies.
The aviation cooperation between China and France does not only involve building and buying airplanes — different educational programs have been set up. For example, the French Civil Aviation University or ENAC has teamed up with Tsinghua University to establish an Executive MBA program that specializes in aviation.
“The growth of education, especially in this area, is something that is definitely needed with the large growth of the marketplace. And there will be more skilled laborers as well as skilled technicians and financiers who can help grow the market even more,” said David Yu, aviation investor, and a professor at New York University Shanghai.
The total value of industrial cooperation between Airbus and the Chinese aviation industry has passed half a billion US dollars, and the company aims to increase its investment in China to $1 billion each year by 2020.