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Domestically produced jumbo jets to take off in 2014
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16:03, May 08, 2009

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As one of the highlights of the 4 trillion yuan investment package, the domestically produced jumbo jet project has received close attention since its official launch last year. How has the jumbo jet project progressed? When will the jumbo jets independently produced by China take flight? Reporters paid a visit to the Chinese jumbo jet project's headquarters in Shanghai to find answers to these questions of public concern.

Jin Zhuanglong, General Manager of the Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China (COMAC), said, "We have recruited experts nationwide, mobilized over 40 organizations and have more than 400 scientific and technological personnel living together and debating the topic. By integrating our company's current strength, we have initially completed the general technology plan of jumbo passenger jets."

Reporters learned that a preliminary design plan for the Chinese-produced jumbo jet C919 has already been completed. The completion of the initial design plan however, is merely the first step. The domestically produced jumbo jet project still faces the challenge of making breakthroughs in numerous key technologies, including the most critical technology of engines and advanced composite materials.

C919 will be equipped with new-generation engines that are more advanced than those of the Boeing 737. However, as researching and developing engines for jumbo jets are highly specialized and require a long period of time, C919, scheduled to take the maiden flight in 2014, will not be fitted with Chinese-produced engines and will need to purchase engines from global manufacturers.

According to the plan, domestically produced jumbo jet C919 will start its first test flight in 2014 and will be delivered to airlines for operation in 2016.

The jumbo jet project: The total investment will reach 200 billion yuan.

COMAC Chairman Zhang Qingwei told reporters that the jumbo jet program will invest another 60 billion yuan in the next three to five years and by the time the jumbo jet is put on the market, the total funds invested in all aspects of the program will reach 200 billion yuan.

Zhang also said, "We should be able to invest 30 billion yuan in research within the first three years. Another 30 billion yuan will be used toward capacity building. Three big centers will be built in the Shanghai region, and if we include our headquarters as a functional organ, we would be investing another 30 billion yuan within three to five years.

According to relevant reports, the State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission (SASAC), COMAC’s largest stockholder, has invested 6 billion yuan, holding 31 percent of the stock, and the Shanghai Guosheng Group, established by the Shanghai Municipal Government, has invested 5 billion yuan, or 26 percent of the stock. Other shareholders include China National Aviation Holding Company, Baosteel, Chinalco, the Sinochem Corporation and other large-scale state-owned enterprises. Zhang said that among the 30 billion yuan invested in research within the first three years, the state's investment will account for less than one-third of that budget while the rest of the sum will depend on capital investment from other sectors of society.

Zhang said, "To successfully develop this jumbo jet and put it on the market, it should gradually foster capabilities that include the availability of supporting products, the forming of the basis for the development of the jumbo jet and the establishment of infrastructure. Investment in the above fields, plus investment in related industries, will reach approximately 200 billion yuan. "

The term "jumbo jet" generally refers to transportation aircraft with a gross take-off weight exceeding 100 tons. It includes military and civil large-scale transport planes, and the trunk-line passenger aircraft with over 150 seats. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) places jumbo jet manufacturing at the top of its list of knowledge-based economy industries. Currently, only the US, Russia and the EU have the ability to build jumbo jets.

The Chinese jumbo jet program was formally established as a project in 2007. COMAC was established later in May 2008 in Shanghai, marking the substantive start of China's research efforts toward its own jumbo jets. C919 was formally designated as the first model of the domestically produced jumbo jet program.  

By People's Daily Online

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