Interview: Safran China CEO sets course for greener, smarter aviation

Updated: April 28, 2023 Source: Xinhua News Agency
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This aerial photo taken on Nov. 20, 2021 shows the expansion project of Haikou Meilan International Airport in Haikou, south China's Hainan Province. (Xinhua/Yang Guanyu)

BEIJING, April 27 (Xinhua) -- French aerospace executive Remi Paul has been fascinated with flying since childhood. However, any hopes of becoming a pilot were set aside when he shot up in height, finally settling at around two meters tall.

In China, Paul has managed to fulfill his aviation dream by another route, taking on the role of CEO and country general delegate of Safran China.

"China is one of the world's most dynamic aviation markets. Safran has strong confidence in China, and will keep investing in China," said Paul in an exclusive interview with Xinhua.

He outlined Safran's vision for future operations in China, the world's key aviation market player.

As a producer of aero engine and aviation equipment, Safran is heavily invested in China's aviation sector. The company will continue to enhance its MRO (maintenance, repair and overhaul) footprint in China, and commit to playing a greater role in sustaining the green transformation, according to Paul.

"China plays an important role in leading the world toward greener aviation," said Paul. "We are very actively mobilizing with various local partners to accelerate our path toward low-carbon aviation."


"Safran considers China to be one of our strategic markets and an integral part of our global supply chain," said Paul, who was appointed to his new role in December 2022.

Paris-headquartered Safran is a world-leading aero engine and aviation equipment manufacturer. The company has more than 20 entities and 2,000 employees in China, with businesses covering all segments of the aviation industry.

The company has been involved in various Chinese aircraft, helicopter and engine projects. It has also expanded the MRO services and customer support for engines, nacelles and landing gear in China.

According to Paul, over 70 percent of narrow-body commercial airplanes operating in China are powered by the CFM-56 and LEAP engines made by CFM International, which is a 50/50 joint company between Safran Aircraft Engines and General Electric.

CFM International also provides the LEAP-1C engines and nacelles for China's C919 jetliner.

Safran has been deeply involved in China's civil aviation market through its wide range of products, such as landing gear, wheels and brakes, and electrical systems, among others.

"With a huge market and great potential, China will continue to be one of our key markets and industrial partners," said Paul.

A C919 jet takes part in a flying display at the 14th China International Aviation and Aerospace Exhibition in Zhuhai, south China's Guangdong Province, on Nov. 8, 2022.  (Xinhua/Lu Hanxin)


China's aviation industry is committed to promoting the high-quality development of the industry through green transformation.

Paul said that, as a world leader in aerospace, Safran is focused on the decarbonization of the aviation industry. "We are determined to continue development in China in a sustainable and responsible way," he said.

The global aviation community is gearing up to identify solutions through diverse technological pathways, such as the next-generation engines, sustainable aviation fuels (SAF), electrification, electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL), and more.

"As an engine manufacturer, Safran is at the center of the decarbonization of the aviation industry," Paul said, adding that the company is working together with its partners to pave the way for the next-generation engines for short- to medium-haul aircraft.

He disclosed that Safran is cooperating with Chinese partners to explore and identify possible technological pathways toward greener aviation. It is also joining forces with a Shanghai-based startup company to provide motors for its eVTOL aircraft.

This photo taken on Dec. 9, 2022 shows the delivery ceremony of the first C919 large passenger aircraft in Shanghai, east China. (Xinhua/Ding Ting)


"China is a good laboratory for innovation," said Paul, who sees great potential for extending the win-win cooperation between Safran and its Chinese partners.

He said that Safran has "formed strong ties and built trust" with major aviation players in China, with its key engine elements made and assembled in southwest China's Guiyang and in eastern Suzhou, among other cases.

"China has been in the center of our global supply chain. We are deploying smart manufacturing here by sharing our digital solutions," said Paul, noting that Safran upgraded its factory in Guiyang with a digitalized production chain for engine parts in 2022.

According to Paul, the smart manufacturing in China enables Safran to enhance quality management while speeding up production.

To Paul, the aviation business is, by nature, about dreams and passion.

"I have always been fascinated by stories about aviation. I am lucky to work in aviation and fulfill the dream," he said.

As for the future, the Frenchman is committed to exploring the sector's vast potential in partnership with China.

"Safran has developed an impressive footprint in China. We are fully engaged in deepening cooperation with China in a new chapter of innovation, green and sustainable development of the aviation industry," Paul said.

Editor: Li Shimeng