Air China, Rolls Royce Announce Aircraft Engine Maintenance JV

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New venture could have other wider regional air maintenance implications  

Air China and the British engineering giant Rolls-Royce announced they are entering into a new joint venture of engine maintenance, repair, and overhaul (MRO) in Beijing at the 2022 China International Fair for Trade in Services.

The new joint venture, Beijing Aero Engine Services Company Limited (BAESL), will provide MRO support on the Rolls-Royce Trent 700, Trent XWB-84, and Trent 1000 aero engines. Air China currently has all three engine types in its fleet.

Air China and Rolls-Royce each hold 50% of the shares in the joint venture with the contract amount of about 2.61 billion yuan (about US$378.2 million).

At full capacity, expected to be achieved in the mid-2030s, BAESL could support up to 250 shop visits per year. The facility will offer MRO services to Air China and other airline customers.

Ma Chongxian, president of Air China, said with safe operation as a top priority, Air China has long been committed to developing aircraft maintenance capabilities and ensuring the reliability of the fleet, meanwhile striving to promote the industrialization of aircraft maintenance.

Chris Cholerton, president of civil aerospace for Rolls-Royce, said the joint venture is a milestone for Rolls-Royce in China. “Air China is a strategic partner for us, having successfully grown together over many years. I am delighted to expand our relationship with this exciting partnership in MRO and look forward to the continued growth of our collaboration.”

Ma said Air China and Rolls-Royce will continue to deepen their partnership and cooperation in high thrust engine maintenance in the future.

The JV could, over time, become involved in other regional developments depending upon geopolitical changes. China is involved with a Russian JV to build the CR929 passenger aircraft, which could be in operation by 2025-26. That is expected to be powered by either Russia’s Aviadvigatel PD-35 engine later this year, while China is working on its CJ-2000 turbofan – the Rolls-Royce experience will possibly help the development of these.

In addition, China recently announced together with Russia, India and Iran that they would form an air maintenance consortium to be based in Iran, which would service both their and other regional fleets. The national airlines of each of these have extensive aircraft fleets, suggesting technology transfer could take place from Rolls-Royce to Air China to allow them to service both this consortium – and others, alluded to by both companies in their statements concerning ‘regional development’. India is already a major global player in aircraft parts manufacturing, while Russia has an extensive aviation industry of its own.

The move by Rolls-Royce also comes as the British politician Liz Truss, who is quite probably about to become the next Prime Minister, has announced that she intends to label China ‘a serious threat’ – suggesting a significant disconnect in the United Kingdom between proposed UK government policy and the goals of British business.

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