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High 5 to China's ambition to develop jumbo jet planes
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Five aircraft manufacturers boasting strengths in various areas of aircraft production have been chosen as major producers to help in China's self-developed jumbo jet program.

They are Harbin Aircraft Industry Group Co Ltd, Chengdu Aircraft Industrial (Group) Co Ltd, Shenyang Aircraft Corp, Xi'an Aircraft Industry (Group) Co Ltd and Shaanxi Aircraft Industry (Group) Co Ltd.

Zhou Jisheng, former chief engineer of the ARJ21 jet program, said the development of composite materials for use in making jumbo jets and the production of engines were among the biggest challenges facing the manufacturers, according to China Business News yesterday.

Harbin Aircraft is said to be strong in producing composite materials, which make up 30 percent to 40 percent of the structure of a jumbo jet. Other manufacturers were accelerating their knowledge and expertise in the hope of developing key components by themselves instead of relying on imports.

"The biggest challenge in making the jumbo jet is the development of the composite materials. At present, composite materials are mainly imported from the United States," said Zhou.

Harbin Aircraft owns the largest research and production base of composite materials for aeronautical purposes in the country.

Several units under the China Aviation Industry Corp I also have the capability and experience in producing spare parts with composite materials, according to Gao Dacheng, president of Xi'an Aircraft.

Apart from the challenges in airframe making, the development of engines has taken on greater urgency, said Zhou.

The 85-seater ARJ21, the first Chinese-made commercial jet developed by China Aviation Industry Corp I, had its maiden flight postponed in April because of delays in the delivery of key components.

The ARJ21 may have its maiden flight by the end of this year, according to earlier reports. The ARJ21 is seen as the precursor to China building its own jumbo jet.

Last month, China launched its first jumbo jet company in Shanghai - the first step to develop a globally competitive aircraft manufacturer.

(Shanghai Daily June 5, 2008)

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