Boeing's CEO is not 'overly anxious' about China's C919

Boeing CEO Dave Calhoun dismissed suggestions that China's first commercial flight of its domestically made C919 narrowbody jet may signal the end of the duopoly now held by Boeing and its European rival Airbus. China Eastern Airlines flew a C919 loaded with people from Shanghai to Beijing on Sunday, marking a watershed moment for maker Commercial Aviation Corp of China (COMAC). The C919 is a "good airplane," according to Calhoun, but it will take a "long time" for COMAC to create the production capacity required to fulfill Chinese airlines' demand. 


"Three providers in a growing global market of this size and scale should not be the most intimidating thought in the world," Calhoun said this week to reporters. "I think it's a silly prospect for us to be overly concerned about." Boeing should concentrate on current competitors and position itself to "win that technology race," according to Calhoun. He noted that China is still "our friend, our customer," but that commerce may be "fits and starts" owing to geopolitical issues.


Chinese carriers began flying the 737 MAX again earlier this year. Despite the fact that all Chinese customers have resumed 737 flights, deliveries of the plane have been halted due to tensions between the US and China. The Chinese aviation authority produced a study on the 737 in April, which Calhoun praised at the time as a "important step" toward resuming MAX deliveries following two disasters in 2018 and 2019 that killed a total of 346 people. Calhoun addressed the press on Tuesday during a media tour of Boeing's facility in Charleston, South Carolina, where the widebody 787 Dreamliner is built.

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Calhoun claimed during the debate, which took place several weeks before Boeing squares off against Airbus in the orders bonanza of the Paris Air Show, that the US planemaker could fend off risks such as competing products and supply-chain snarls. Calhoun responded to Airbus's decision to develop an extended version of its A220, which would compete with Boeing's best-selling 737 MAX 8, saying, "That does not give me heartburn." Calhoun stated that regaining a 50% market share for narrowbody jet orders against Airbus was unimportant. Instead, Calhoun stated that the largest driver of Boeing's market share losses over the last four years has been the company's inability to deliver planes, which began with the MAX problem in 2019 and has been followed by supply-chain and manufacturing concerns. Calhoun also dismissed suggestions that Boeing would attempt to re-acquire Spirit AeroSystems, a business split off from Boeing in 2005 that manufactures important airplane structures such as the 737 MAX fuselage and 787 front fuselages, as well as essential components of Airbus aircraft. Spirit has been the source of multiple difficulties that have hindered Boeing deliveries in recent years, including a continuing 737 MAX bracket installation defect that has halted deliveries since April. "We are dissatisfied with each new issue that limits our rates and slows us down," Calhoun added. Those issues, though, "are solvable, and I don't think you acquire a company to solve it."

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