Boeing will open its China 737 jet completion facility in the coastal city of Zhoushan next month, and aims to deliver its first airplane to Air China in December.
Boeing China President John Bruns says the upcoming delivery will mark the first time Boeing delivers an aircraft at an overseas site.
“We will deliver the first 737 aircraft in Zhoushan this year, and we will gradually continue the ramp-up, making annual capacity reach 100,” he said.
Bruns’s remarks were reported by Xinhua, the Communist Party-run press agency of the People’s Republic of China. Boeing spokesman Paul Bergman said Bruns was accurately quoted, but the jetmaker made no announcement of its own.
Boeing partnered with Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China (COMAC) to jointly build and operate the completion center. Boeing invested $33 million in the venture, and owns the 737 delivery center entirely.
The project includes a manufacturing hangar, a painting hangar, a delivery center office building, maintenance hangar, storage facilities, parking aprons and taxiways.
Unpainted 737 Max jets will fly from Boeing’s Renton factory to Zhoushan, where they’ll be painted and have their interiors installed.
“The 737 completion and delivery center in Zhoushan will only serve our Chinese customers, supporting them to expand the fleet and become more successful in the market,” Bruns said.
Bruns said Boeing will work to make Zhoushan successful, growing China’s industrial aviation system and boosting its suppliers.
Aerospace analyst Michel Merluzeau, recently returned from China, said Zhoushan was late, but “nothing dramatic.”
“In the context of a trade war, this is a positive for Boeing as it seeks to counter Airbus in the fastest growing airplane market,” Merluzeau said.
The facility in eastern Zhejiang province opens as profits at China’s three biggest passenger airlines tumbled during the first nine months despite rising traffic, because of higher fuel prices and a depreciation of the Chinese yuan currency versus the U.S. dollar, Orient Aviation reported.
China Southern profits fell 43 percent. China Eastern profits also fell 43 percent. Air China’s profits fell 16 percent.
Boeing sells to 11 Chinese airlines, which now buy one of every three Renton-made 737s.