(Sankei: November 20, 2015 – p. 10)
Japanese airplane manufacturers are expanding their capital spending to prepare for commercial production of new passenger aircraft by Boeing and Airbus. They are raising their profile by supplying carbon fiber and other materials and parts to Boeing’s 777X, a next-generation passenger jet currently under development. At home, the project is also underway to produce the country’s first passenger aircraft, Mitsubishi Regional Jet, for commercial use next spring. These moves are expected to breathe life into the domestic aerospace industry.
Kawasaki Heavy Industries will build a 25-billion-yen assembly plant at its Nagoya No.1 facility to turn out fore- and middle-fuselage panels for the 777X, as Boeing is slated to go into commercial production in 2017. Mitsubishi Heavy Industries will also set up a new production line inside its Eba factory, Hiroshima Prefecture, to produce aft fuselages and fuselage tail sections for the 777X.
Toray Industries will build a new plant in the U.S. state of South Carolina. Its carbon fiber will be used in the production of the main wings of the 777X. It will spend a total of about 100 billion yen in the U.S. by 2020.
Meanwhile, IHI will supply fan blades for the A320neo, Airbus’ next-generation small passenger jet. It plans to build a new factory in Tatsuno, Nagano Prefecture, for the production of these parts.
Japan accounts for a paltry 4% of the global aviation market, which is currently worth about 25 trillion yen and is expected to double over the next two decades. The government is looking to broaden the base of the domestic aviation industry by capitalizing on the development of the MRJ. It envisages expanding Japan’s share of the global aviation sector to 20% in 20 years.
In the production of the MRJ, about 70% of parts used in the aircraft are sourced from foreign suppliers. “Japanese manufactures have an edge in the production of wings and fuselages and the development of materials, but they lag behind in the production of aircraft equipment,” said a senior executive with Sumitomo Precision Products.
It is also important to foster subcontractors of smaller parts. Aircraft manufacturers are required to acquire international certifications, as they must meet high safety standards. These requirements may pose an obstacle to midsize manufacturers. The government needs to address many issues for the growth of the domestic aviation industry. (Abridged)