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US$29b to let China's jumbo jet fly
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China will invest 200 billion yuan (US$29 billion) in developing its domestic jumbo jet, according to Zhang Qingwei, chairman of Commercial Aircraft Corp of China.

"We will invest 60 billion yuan in the jumbo jet project in the next three to five years, and an overall investment of 200 billion yuan is required to finally put the jet on the market," he said.

The company, which is 31-percent controlled by the central government and 26-percent owned by the Shanghai government, will spend 30 billion yuan in research and development of the jet, including engines and airborne systems.

"The central government will fund less than a third of the R&D investment and the rest will come from public capital," Zhang said in an interview with China Central Television.

The establishment of R&D, customer service and assembly centers will cost another 30 billion yuan, he said.

The 150-seat jumbo jet, codenamed C919, is part of the country's aim to become a world-class plane producer with a lineup of globally competitive products.

All facets of the process - from design to sourcing and production - will be done in China, as the project aims to reduce the country's reliance on overseas firms such as Boeing and Airbus.

An initial design of the jet has been completed and the aircraft is scheduled to make its maiden flight in 2014 and is expected to be delivered to customers by 2016.

However, it may be equipped with foreign-made engines for the maiden flight as the country still needs time to make breakthroughs in some key technologies, including engines and composite materials.

Zhang said the company would need 30,000 employees to deal with design, assembly, customer services, marketing and airworthiness certificates. It has 4,000 employees at present.

A jumbo jet is defined as a plane with more than 150 seats or a payload over 100 tons. Only the United States, Russia, France, Germany, Britain and Spain currently manufacture them.

(Shanghai Daily May 9, 2009)

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