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China firm aims to make engines for homegrown jets

CHINA'S Avic Commercial Aircraft Engine Co Ltd is expected to produce the first engine in 2016 to drive the country's first locally produced commercial jumbo jet.

"The jumbo jet will gain an airworthiness certificate in 2016 and our development of engines will keep pace with it," said Zhang Jian, general manager of the engine maker, in Shanghai today.

Five of the aircraft will be set aside for tests and one will be allocated to the domestic engine maker, Zhang said.

"Our company is not the exclusive engine supplier for the jet and, as I understand, two overseas engine makers, including Pratt & Whitney, have applied to provide engines," he said.

"Jumbo jet buyers can choose different engines according to need and we can also sell to budget airlines and airlines in Africa," he said.

Experts approved the 6-billion-yuan company's development proposal this month, reviewing its product, technology, international alliances and management style. The proposal will be submitted to government this month.

The Aviation Industry Corp of China holds a 40 percent stake in the company and Shanghai's investment arm, Guosheng Group, and Shanghai Electric Group each have a 15 percent stake. The venture still seeks investors to purchase the remaining 30 percent share.

"Some overseas investors, domestic investment banks and private firms have shown interest in getting the stake," Zhang said.

The firm launched a worldwide recruitment scan for 50 staff for 37 positions today and applications close on September 10.

It also plans to lay the foundations for its research and development center at Zizhu Park in the city's Minhang District and an assembly center at Lingang Development Zone in Nanhui District at the end of this year.

The 150-seat jumbo jet, codenamed C919, is part of the country's aim to become a world-class aircraft 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 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 develop key technologies, including engines and composite materials.


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