TE Connectivity eyes more supply and design work for China’s widebody C929 aircraft

PUBLISHED : Monday, 18 September, 2017, 9:53am
UPDATED : Monday, 18 September, 2017, 10:09pm

TE Connectivity, which makes sensors and connectors for electronic systems, has delivered a vote of confidence in China’s plane-making industry with plans for more supply deals and design work related to development of the C929 widebody aircraft.

Terrence Curtin, TE’s chief executive, told the South China Morning Post that the company was ready to deepen its relationship with Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China (Comac) as the aircraft assembler starts developing a long-haul 280-seat jumbo jet with Russian partners.

“We are going to support them in as many ways as we can to make sure we help them win and get their aircraft,” he said. “With the technologies we have, we want them to be successful.”

TE not only supplies parts to Comac but is also involved in the architectural design work for its planes, including the 78-seat regional ARJ-21 jet and the 168-seat C919 jet.

Comac and Russian companies including jet assembler United Aircraft Corporation (UAC) and industrial conglomerate Rostec have set up a 50-50 joint venture to develop a long-haul 280-seat passenger plane, with expected delivery in 2025.

Rostec said last month that Comac and UAC would develop their own engines for the widebody aircraft, known as C929, in an apparent effort to break the duopoly held by General Electric (GE) and Rolls-Royce.

“Their engine development will not be something that will have an impact on us,” Curtin said. “We don’t make engines. We make some of the components that do the sensing operations around the engines. It’s important that what we do is support whoever makes engines.”

Comac, established in 2008 as part of Beijing’s ambitious plan to wield China’s manufacturing might around the globe, successfully conducted a maiden flight of the narrow body C919 aircraft in May, which aims to take on the Boeing 737 and Airbus A320.

China’s answer to Airbus, Boeing completes Shanghai maiden flight

The major parts for the C919 are supplied by global manufacturers such as GE and Honeywell.

TE is one of the global companies eyeing the potential of the C929 project.

Honeywell said earlier that it also wants to secure deals from China’s development of the widebody jet.

More than one sixth of TE’s global business was derived from its China operations in the past financial year, equal to US$2.2 billion.

Besides Comac, its major clients on the Chinese mainland include manufacturers of telecommunication equipment, high-speed railways, cars and robots.

TE set up in China 29 years ago and currently has 15 mainland manufacturing operations with 20,000 employees.

Formerly known as Tyco Electronics, the company designs and manufactures connectivity and sensor products for harsh environments.

“We expect China to grow faster than the rest of our global businesses,” Curtin said. “That’s why we are doing investment here.”

At the start of the year TE started construction on the second phase of a US$100 million Suzhou plant which will focus on developing and manufacturing new-energy auto parts and components, including connectors, harnesses and sensors.

Curtin added that the new-energy vehicle sector would become one of the key growth engines for TE in China given the country’s role as world’s biggest automotive market.