Timetable set for making large planes

By Zhao Huanxin (China Daily)
Updated: 2007-01-09 07:24

Hundreds of large planes fly in and out of Chinese airports daily but none sports a Made-in-China label.

The picture will change in 10 to 15 years, when indigenously-developed large aircraft offer more choice to airlines which fly only Boeing or Airbus.

"The large-plane project is being carefully studied," Huang Qiang, secretary-general of the Commission of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense, said yesterday.

"We estimate that within two or three Five-Year-Plan periods, our large plane will come into use."

It was the first time officials specified a timetable for a project which Huang said has led to widespread interest among the public and would cause some nervous moments for foreign aircraft makers.

In China, key projects are usually part of national five-year plans; and a large plane was listed as a priority project in the 11th Five-Year Plan (2006-10), during which design of the aircraft would start, commission officials said earlier.

There have been mounting calls from the public for an early implementation of the large plane project, a program that "has also kept some in (global aviation giants) Boeing and Airbus on their toes," Huang told a press conference on the sidelines of the commission's annual work conference yesterday in Beijing.

Used for both military and civilian purposes, large aircraft have a load capacity of at least 100 tons; and a passenger carrier of that size usually has 200 seats, experts said.

Huang said the large-aircraft project can build on the expertise and experience of the aviation industry, particularly of the ARJ21, China's advanced regional jet whose manufacture started in December 2003.

The China Aviation Industry Corp I (AVIC I) has clinched 71 orders for ARJ21 jets, even though the regional plane will have test flights only next year, according to Huang.

The reasons for its success are that the company offers medium-capacity jets of the best quality at a competitive price, which best suits Chinese market needs, according to Liu Gaozhuo, former AVIC I president, who said he believed the same would be true for China's large aircraft.

In its latest market outlook, the AVIC I-affiliated Aviation Industry Development Research Centre said China needs 2,230 large-sized planes through 2025, by which time Boeing expects the number to reach 3,900. Boeing and Airbus are sole suppliers of large planes to China.

The announcement of the large-plane program comes on the heels of last week's unveiling of Jian-10, the home-made new-generation fighter jet made by AVIC I.

(China Daily 01/09/2007 page1)

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