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China-made Jumbo Aircraft to Be Assembled in Shanghai, Xi'an
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A Chinese official said  on Friday that home-developed jumbo aircraft will be assembled in both Shanghai and Xi'an, capital of northwest China's Shaanxi Province.

Though the project is still in the initial planning phase, Xi'an is expected to shoulder about 50 percent of the manufacturing workload for jumbo airliners and 60 percent for airfreighters, said Jin Qiansheng, deputy director of the administrative committee of Xi'an Yanliang State Aviation High-tech Industry Base.

The Commission of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense disclosed that Shanghai will be the assembly base when it announced last week that the country would launch jumbo aircraft manufacturing.

"Yanliang will also play a key role in developing the country's own jumbo aircraft. It is the only national aviation industry base, and it has China's strongest aviation research and development team," Jin said at an ongoing investment and trade forum in Xi'an.

According to Jin, Yanliang is also responsible for producing the wings and fuselage of China's innovative new regional jet, the ARJ-21.

A jumbo aircraft is an airfreighter with a take-off weight of more than 100 tons or an airliner with more than 150 seats.

However, China will need at least another 10 years before it could make the first jumbo, according to Jin.

Only the United States, Russia, France, Germany, Britain and Spain currently have the ability to build jumbo aircraft, with Boeing and Airbus taking the lion's share of the international market.

"China's jumbo aircraft will initially target the domestic market. But the ultimate aim is to compete with Boeing and Airbus on the international market." Jin said.

Jin did not rule out international cooperation in the project, saying a jumbo plane like a Boeing 747 has about a million parts and manufacturers like Boeing and Airbus have thousands of parts suppliers.

"The involvement of foreign and domestic private aircraft producers is essential to China's jumbo plane project," said Jin.

Yanliang is now seeking cooperation with private helicopter manufacturing companies in eastern Zhejiang Province as well as aircraft manufacturers in Brazil, said Jin.

China started to build jumbo aircraft in 1970, only two years after Airbus went into production, but the project was later shelved despite a promising start.

After a decades-long suspension, the central government last year revived the blueprint in the 11th five-year plan (2006-2010) in order to meet the country's growing demand for air travel.

To prepare for the jumbo plane project, China began building its own regional jet, the ARJ-21 -- meaning "advanced regional jet for the 21st century" -- in 2002.

Final assembly of the domestically-developed regional jet began on March 30 in Shanghai with the first 90-seater plane expected to roll out of the workshop at the end of the year.

The ARJ-21's maiden flight is scheduled for March 2008 and mass production of the aircraft will begin in 2009, according to China Aviation Industry Corporation I (AVIC I), developer of the jet.

Chinese experts said the ARJ-21 has given China a late but powerful presence in its own commercial aviation market, which up until now has been dominated by foreign aircraft manufacturers such as Boeing and Airbus.

The ARJ-21 project has also helped Chinese experts and technicians improve management and marketing skills for large aircraft development, said the experts.

China is on track to become the world's second largest civil aviation market by 2030 -- after the United States -- with air travel soaring by more than 95 percent in the past five years.

Huge market demand means that China will need 1,600 new airliners by 2020, representing expenditure of at least US$150 billion.

(Xinhua News Agency April 7, 2007)


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