12/22/2007, 00.00
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The “Flying Phoenix”, the first Chinese passenger jet is unveiled

It can carry up to 100 passengers the first regional flights due by 2009. Set for use within the Chinese market, but analysts foresee difficulties thanks to a the presence of less expensive models already in use. The vice premier: it’s a question of national pride.

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) – The state run China Aviation Industry Corp I (Avic I) yesterday unveiled the first regional jet to be entirely projected and built in China.  ARJ21 (advanced regional jet for the 21st century) can carry between 70 and 100 passengers.  It will make its maiden flight in March and its commercial use is set to begin within 2009.

But according to the world market for passenger airplane acquisitions, China aims to build bigger planes to compete with the Boeing 737 and ’Airbus 320, to date the nation’s main suppliers.  Meanwhile it claims that already has 170 orders for these regional jets and foresees selling a further hundred over the next twenty years, above all thanks to the national market.  A airline from Laos has already promised to order 2.  Even if analysts say the forecasts are overly optimistic.

The ARJ21, named Xiang Feng (“Flying Phoenix), is only 60% Chinese technology and was produced thanks to the collaboration of at least 19 foreign companies : General Electric Co. provided engines, Hamilton Sundstrand electrical systems,  Rockwell Collins Inc. pilot and flight systems.

Analysts have pointed out that the project is not advantageous from the point of view of economics, but vice premier Zeng Peiyan explained during the ceremony, which banned foreign journalists but was  transmitted on live TV across the country, that above all it is a question of national pride and that this “proves that China is capable of producing passenger jets”.

Experts observe that the market already boasts airplane models already in use in this sector and that it will be difficult to win over international trust.  The  ARJ21 costs 250 million Yuan  (34 million dollars), while the similar Embraer 175 costs only 30 million dollars.

Even the director of Avic, Lin Zuoming, has claimed that China is “turning a page” and “becoming part of the world aviation industry”, but that it will take quite some time before it will be “economically advantageous”.

In the ’70’s China produced a four engine, 150 passenger jet similar to Boeing 707. But it was never used for commercial flights. (PB)
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