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Airbus scores landmark success

AIRBUS delivered its first Chinese-assembled A320 jet in Tianjin yesterday as it takes a step further to compete with Boeing for orders in the world's second-largest aviation market.

Sichuan Airlines will operate the aircraft on its maiden flight today from Chengdu to Beijing. The plane will later serve routes linking major cities including Shanghai, the plane maker said in a statement yesterday.

"Delivery of the first Chinese-assembled A320 jet is a milestone for Airbus's long-term strategic partnership with China. The assembly line in Tianjin operates to exactly the same standard with other Airbus lines in Europe," said Thomas Enders, chief executive officer of the plane maker, in Tianjin yesterday.

The Tianjin factory, Airbus's first outside Europe, will assemble 11 A320 jets this year and will produce four airplanes monthly in 2011, it said.

The plant, a joint venture between Airbus and Tianjin Zhongtian Aviation Industry Investment Co, began operations last September with a total estimated investment of 8 billion yuan (US$1.17 billion) to 10 billion yuan. The factory has an order book of nearly 300 airplanes up to 2016. Airbus accelerated cooperation with Chinese firms as it seeks to tap strong air traffic demand in the country.

Chinese airlines plan to fly 700 million passengers annually by 2020, compared with 192 million last year, according to Li Jiaxiang, director of the Civil Aviation Administration of China.

Airbus has signed a contract with Chinese partners for a joint venture in Harbin in northeast China to make parts for the A350 XWB and the Airbus A320 family. Production at the Harbin Hafei Airbus Composite Manufacturing Center Co will start in September and a new plant should be ready by the end of 2010.


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