ARLINGTON, VIRGINIA — Despite rising competition, Boeing remains confident of holding its ground.

In the face of speculation that the inaugural commercial flight of China's domestically produced C919 narrowbody jet could signal a shift in the aviation industry's duopoly, Boeing CEO Dave Calhoun remained unflustered. 

Boeing and its European rival Airbus currently dominate this space.
China Eastern Airlines took a significant step for China's commercial aviation industry this Sunday by operating a passenger-filled C919, manufactured by the Commercial Aviation Corp of China (COMAC), on a flight from Shanghai to Beijing.

Despite acknowledging the C919 as a "good airplane," Calhoun cautioned that COMAC will need substantial time to develop the necessary production capacity to meet domestic airlines' demand.

Discussing the prospect of a third competitor in the vast global market, Calhoun remained optimistic. "Three providers in a growing global market of this size and scale should not be the most intimidating thought in the world,” he said during a press briefing. He dismissed the idea of Boeing being overly worried about this emerging competition as "a silly prospect."

Calhoun emphasized that Boeing should concentrate on current rivals and strive to "win that technology race." He maintained that despite geopolitical tensions causing business to progress in "fits and starts," China continues to be a valued partner and client.

Chinese airlines began reintegrating the 737 MAX into their fleets earlier this year, following a period of service suspension. Although all Chinese airlines have resumed 737 flights, jet deliveries have been held up due to ongoing diplomatic tensions between China and the United States.

Calhoun applauded the April report by the Chinese aviation regulator on the 737, considering it an "important step" towards resuming MAX deliveries. This comes in the wake of two catastrophic crashes in 2018 and 2019, which claimed 346 lives.

The Boeing CEO addressed the media during a tour of the company's facilities in Charleston, South Carolina, where the widebody 787 Dreamliner is manufactured. This briefing comes ahead of Boeing's upcoming face-off with Airbus at the much-anticipated Paris Air Show.

Calhoun expressed confidence that Boeing could withstand multiple threats, including competitive offerings and supply-chain complications. When questioned about the possibility of Airbus launching an extended version of its A220 - which could challenge Boeing’s bestselling 737 MAX 8, he remained unperturbed, stating, "That does not give me heartburn.”

Contrary to some expectations, Calhoun indicated that Boeing is not preoccupied with reclaiming a 50% market share for narrowbody plane orders against Airbus. He identified Boeing’s inability to deliver airplanes, initially due to the MAX crisis in 2019 and later because of supply-chain and production issues, as the main factor behind the company's market share losses over the past four years.

Lastly, Calhoun dismissed rumors that Boeing might attempt to repurchase Spirit AeroSystems. This company, separated from Boeing in 2005, manufactures critical aircraft structures for the 737 MAX and the 787, as well as key parts of Airbus aircraft. Spirit's repeated production issues have impeded Boeing's deliveries in recent years, including an ongoing 737 MAX bracket installation problem discovered in April. “We are disappointed with every next issue that occurs that limits our rates and slows us down,” Calhoun stated. Nonetheless, he affirmed that such issues are fixable and did not warrant the acquisition of a company.