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China gives green light to country's first modern passenger jet
( 2002-09-20 14:14 ) (7 )

China's government has approved plans to build the country's first modern passenger jet in an attempt to meet the challenge from powerful foreign competitors, state media said Friday.

Despite the Cabinet's green light, a long and difficult route lies ahead for the ARJ21, which will carry between 72 and 79 passengers once it starts flying in 2006, the Beijing Youth Daily reported.

"Research and development of the ARJ21 won't be a smooth, effortless ride," said the paper. "The United States and other large aircraft manufacturing nations will not allow others to enter their exclusive club at will."

The aircraft will be developed by the state-run Aviation Industry of China I (AVIC I) at an initial cost of more than five billion yuan (600 million dollars), the paper said.

China is keen to make its own aircraft to meet demand for air travel within the country, which has soared even amid the global airline slump after the terrorist attacks of September 11 last year.

Chinese airlines carried 40 million passengers in the first half of 2002, up 14.4 percent from a year earlier, and annual passenger volume is expected to reach 140 million by 2010.

The plan to go ahead with the ARJ21 was announced little more than a week after reports of approval for a similar project at AVIC II, China's other giant state-owned aerospace company.

In a tie-up with Brazil's Embraer, AVIC II will produce 50-seater aircraft at a factory in Harbin, the capital of northeast China's Heilongjiang province.

Although the ARJ21 appears not to involve foreign participants directly, officials at AVIC I have said engines, avionics and other equipment will be procured globally.

Foreign companies including Pratt and Whitney Canada, General Electric and Rolls-Royce have all pitched their engines for the project.

The ARJ21 project follows the failure of earlier efforts to build a joint-venture short-haul 100-seat aircraft with the Airbus Consortium and then with a South Korea consortium, AVIC I officials said previously.

It also comes after AVIC I's joint venture with McDonald-Douglas, producing the 150-seat MD-90, was discontinued after Boeing took over the US aircraft maker two years ago.



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