A joint venture between New Zealand aircraft maker Pacific Aerospace and China’s leading general aviation company lifts off this week with the opening of a state of the art aircraft manufacturing plant in one of China’s top business cities, Changzhou.
The purpose-built facility, on a 10 hectare site at Changzhou Airport was officially opened on October 21. It is the first demonstration of an ambitious business future planned by the joint venture between Hamilton-based Pacific Aerospace Limited and the Beijing General Aviation Company (BGAC), a subsidiary of the giant Beijing Automotive group.
Called Beijing Pan-Pacific Aerospace Technology (BPAT), the joint venture expects to roll out up to 100 Pacific Aerospace light aircraft a year from the new plant, and to create more than 300 jobs in China alone.
The opening celebration featured the unveiling of the plant’s first aircraft, a reassembled P-750 XSTOL, the world’s most versatile utility aircraft with extreme takeoff and landing capabilities that has been a global export success story for Pacific Aerospace.
After its opening debut the P-750, which has the registration number XL204, was flown to Zhuhai in Guangdong, to participate in the China International Aviation & Aerospace Exhibition, also known as Airshow China, the largest aviation event in mainland China, held on November 1-6.
Joint venture chief executive, Pacific Aerospace’s Damian Camp says the opening of the new plant is a game-changer for the 67 year old New Zealand plane maker, and a significant development in China’s drive to massively increase its general aviation industry. General aviation is distinct from commercial passenger and military aviation and is considered a vital part of any developed economy, providing infrastructure support to populations through aviation links.
Along with P-750 XTOLs, the China plant will also produce a smaller, multi-purpose utility aircraft, the E-350 Expedition, a model recently acquired through Pacific Aerospace’s purchase of the type from Canada. It is also planned to produce the Pacific Aerospace pilot training aircraft, the CT-4E Airtrainer.
Camp says the initial primary focus of the new plant in China will be assembly of aircraft from kits supplied by Pacific Aerospace in New Zealand and its existing supply base, but the plant is also expected to manufacture components and offer custom painting services.
“Our Changzhou facility will be the world’s newest general aviation plant and what’s more, we’ve got plenty of space to expand to meet the growing demand from the Chinese market” says Camp.
The joint venture also has business development plans outside of aircraft manufacture. “We are offering all that is required to grow that general aviation industry,” says Camp.
BPAT will provide services to other general aviation companies, including management and maintenance services, and will offer pilot and engineering training in China. It is also tapping the fast-growing popularity of sky-diving among Chinese, investing in sky-dive ventures and drop-zones across the country, showcasing the popular capability of the P-750 XSTOL aircraft to take off on short runways, climb quickly and land in equally short order to pick up the next group of thrill-seekers.
Aircraft for export will continue to be manufactured on the Hamilton campus, where Pacific Aerospace currently employs 150 people, and is training Chinese staff.
Camp says the joint venture followed corresponding searches by Hamilton’s Pacific Aerospace and Beijing Automotive for reputable, highly capable partners in the quest to develop China’s general aviation strength.
“China is going to be a major player in world general aviation and we needed to be there. In turn Beijing Automotive’s subsidiary Beijing General Aviation wanted an innovative, experienced and accomplished partner and liked our P-750.
“For our part we can pick up on the manufacturing expertise of Beijing Automotive and have better access to the China market by having more Chinese content in aircraft. This is the biggest development in Pacific Aerospace’s history and critically important as we see demand for the P-750 and the new E-350 increase.”