The trade war between the US and China may have yet another controversial chapter. According to Reuters, President Donald Trump may restrict the supply of CFM Leap-1C turbofan engines and Honeywell avionics to the COMAC C919 commercial jet.
The ban could be confirmed this Thursday or February 28, during meetings with Trump’s office. These companies currently have export licenses, but the Chinese program has been the target of accusations of espionage and reverse engineering.
In revelations last year, the United States pointed out that Chinese companies had hacked American C919 partners in search of projects to develop the components locally, which COMAC denied. However, Chinese manufacturer AECC is currently developing a turbofan that is very similar to the LEAP-1, the CJ-1000AX, which will also equip the C919.
Although it has French company Safran as a partner, CFM may suffer interference from the US government on behalf of GE. The LEAP-1 is used by the A320neo and also by the 737 Max, a jet that is grounded for safety problems.
In the case of Honeywell, in addition to the ban on the export of flight control systems to COMAC, the company would have to give up participating in the development of the widebody CR929, a joint program between Russians and Chinese.
Currently, the Chinese manufacturer has been in trouble with the C919 due to unforeseen circumstances in its project. Even with six test planes, the certification of the model, which was expected in 2020, should only occur in 2022.
Similar in size to the Airbus A320neo, the C919 promises to be cheaper and more economical, but the lack of commercial tradition of Chinese planes could be an obstacle to its success. On the other hand, the Chinese market can (and should) absorb a large number of aircraft.
By the way, the concern of analysts if the Trump administration prevents the use of Western technology is that China will boycott Boeing’s planes, something that has already been discreetly – the 787, for example, does not receive orders from companies in the country since 2017.