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AVIC II Trainer Jet Ready for Production

The China Aviation Industry Corp II (AVIC II) said yesterday it has successfully developed the third-generation jet trainer the L15.


The L15 advanced trainer, designed and manufactured by the company's Hongdu Aviation Industry Group, will finish final assembly at the end of this month and make its maiden flight before the end of this year, said Xu Zhanbin, vice-president of AVIC II.


The trainer, which can fully meet new training requirements for pilots, will be priced at about US$15 million, he said.


This means it will be 20 percent cheaper than similar jets manufactured by foreign companies, he said.


It is predicted that global demand for the L15 advanced trainer and similar products such as the Russian-made YAK-130, The American T-38 and the T-50 made in South Korea, will reach several thousand units in the coming two decades.


The L15 trainer will hopefully target the global market after it begins mass production in 2007, Xu said.


"But we will first target those countries which have built strong ties with us," he said.


Xu did not specify which countries these were.


But he said that AVIC II had already sold more than 200 k-8 jets, the second-generation trainer, to more than 10 foreign countries including Pakistan, Myanmar and Zambia.


The K-8 jet is designed not only for training missions such as take-offs, landings, spin and night flights, but also for armed operations training.


Test flights indicate that the aircraft is an excellent basic trainer with good flight quality and performance, providing satisfactory efficiency at low operation and maintenance costs.


AVIC II plans to sell another 200 K-8 jets to those countries with strong China ties in the coming decade, Xu said.


Economists believe development of the L15 can help boost the profits of AVIC II, parent of the Hong Kong-listed AviChina Industry & Technology Co Ltd.


An earlier report said AVIC II's profits rose 215 percent last year compared with 2003.


The company also achieved a sales income of 35.7 billion yuan (US$4.4 billion) last year, an increase of 12.2 percent from 2003.


AVIC II is the largest minivan maker in China with a more than 30 percent market share. It is also the only domestic mass producer of helicopters and short-haul jets in China.


The company sold 314,000 cars in 2004. It also delivered 88 helicopters and aircraft to its customers.


AVIC II, which is pinning high hopes on the aircraft business to drive its future growth, has established a joint venture with the Brazilian short-haul jet manufacturer Embraer to assemble the Brazilian firm's jets in China.


The joint venture has already delivered seven ERJ145 jets to China Southern Airlines and China Eastern Airlines.


Xu claimed demand for small jets in China will be enormous in the coming decades, as the country's economy develops further, demand for helicopters in China will also increase rapidly.


AVIC II plans to increase all its major economic indicators by 10 percent this year and is trying to turn itself into a large company capable of competing internationally in the long term, according to the company's president Zhang Hongbiao.


(China Daily September 23, 2005)


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