Rolls Royce is banking on a recovery in aviation in China in the coming months as the country reopens to foreign travellers in 2023.

Julian MacCormac, regional director at Rolls-Royce in Greater China, told FINN he was “confident our industry will benefit significantly as China reconnects”.

“Aviation connects people and businesses around the world and is essential to support growth globally,” he commented.

“We’ve already seen recovery in international travel elsewhere in the world as countries have lifted travel restrictions. As we enter into 2023 we are confident we will see strong recovery in China too.

“Asia too will benefit from this because of the geographic closeness and the economic ties. For example, in 2019, the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) reported that flights to and from China represented the second largest market for air traffic in and out of Singapore, accounting for approximately 20% of total passenger traffic.”

Engine flying hours

In 2022, Rolls Royce’s large engine flying hours were up 35% year on year at 65% of 2019 levels, with an improvement at the end of the year as travel restrictions in China eased. The company says it expects large engine flying hours to reach 80-90% of 2019 levels in 2023.

Despite the challenges brought about by Covid, China remains an important market for Rolls-Royce, and the engine maker still sees “huge opportunities” for growth and investment.

In 2022, Rolls Royce established BAESL (Beijing Aero Engine Services Company Limited), a new 50/50 Joint Venture with Air China, which will provide maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) of Rolls-Royce Trent 700, Trent XWB-84 and Trent 1000 aero engines.

At full capacity, which is expected to be achieved in the mid 2030s, BAESL will be able to support up to 250 shop visits per year.

While Rolls Royce faced challenges in its supply-chain in 2022, including in China, MacCormac said he was “seeing significant improvements” which “gives us much certainty in our operations”.

“Our main challenge today – one that we’re glad to deal with it – is increased demand globally as the recovery of aviation continues,” he added.
As for the biggest opportunities in China for Rolls Royce, MacCormac said the “continued growth in China’s demand for aviation” was one cause for optimism.

He added: “We regard China’s “dual carbon” principle a positive factor for our business, and we’re well positioned to support China’s pledge to carbon neutrality. We are confident our sustainable power solutions will see growing market demand in China.”

Advanced Air Mobility

Advanced Air Mobility is another area where Rolls Royce is seeking to make its mark.

Rolls-Royce has a dedicated electrical business that develops innovation for more sustainable aviation and new mobility concepts.

“We’re working with industry partners on hybrid-electric and all-electric power and propulsion,” MacCormac said.

“Electrical power and propulsion systems will lead the way for Advanced Air Mobility (AAM), enabling silent short and vertical take-off and landing capabilities while lowering emissions and reducing fuel consumption.

“China plans to “promote the application of electric and hybrid electric aircraft in general aviation”. While the roadmap for this development isn’t yet clear, this is an area we are watching closely.”
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