British Airways CEO Likes Chinese Airliner

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Although some pundits have been dismissive of China's proposed C919 single-aisle airliner, one of the world's biggest airlines appears to be taking it seriously. In an address to an engineers' convention in Toulouse Tuesday, Willie Walsh, CEO of British Airways' parent IAG, said that on paper, at least, the C919 looks like a viable alternative to Airbus's A318/319/320 and the Boeing 737. "My view is you have a real competitor," Walsh is quoted by Bloomberg as saying. "The C919 looks very good on paper. There's a lot of improvement in fuel consumption and environmental performance." Walsh also hinted that the C919, which could easily be mistaken for an A320, may be less expensive than its Western rivals.

Walsh said budget-conscious airlines are always looking for better value. "Price is very important," Bloomberg quoted Walsh as saying. "These are expensive assets in an industry that struggles to get its hands on capital. We're looking for everything, and we want it cheaper than it is now." The government-owned Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China announced the C919 last year and hopes to have one flying in 2016. The first models will have CFM's Leap X engines and avionics supplied by Western companies but China is also developing home-grown power and panels. The company has said it will announce major orders for the C919 in the coming year.