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China scores a flying success

AFTER a four-hour flight, the first China-assembled Airbus A320 aircraft landed smoothly at Tianjin Binhai International Airport yesterday afternoon, a symbol of successful test flight.

The aircraft will be delivered to Dragon Aviation Leasing in June from the Airbus Delivery Center in Tianjin and will be operated by Sichuan Airlines.

"I am confident that the plane will be delivered to Sichuan Airlines by the end of June as scheduled," said Jean Luc Charles, general manager of the Airbus (Tianjin) Final Assembly Line Co Ltd (FALC), after the test flight. He also said the A320 assembled in China unquestionably demonstrated the same quality and performance as those assembled and delivered in Hamburg or Toulouse.

The FALC, which started operations in August 2008, is a joint-venture between Airbus and a Chinese consortium comprising Tianjin Free Trade Zone and China Aviation Industry Corp.

Airbus China holds 51 percent in the company while the consortium holds 49 percent.

The Tianjin assembly line, the third in addition to one each in Toulouse and Hamburg, will assemble two types of aircraft in the A320 family - A319 and A320. The A320 family also includes A318 and A321.

"China has become more involved in the world's aviation industry," said Li Yanhua, a professor at the Civil Aviation University of China, citing that the huge market potential has lured world's aircraft giants as Boeing and Airbus.

The Tianjin-based FALC is set to deliver a total of 11 A320 aircraft this year. Starting from 2011, it will be able to produce 48 A320 planes annually, Charles said.

"With the final assembly line here in Tianjin, we deepen and expand our industrial relationship, which is a key pillar of the internationalization strategy of Airbus," he said..

According to a report by the Tianjin Airport-based Industrial Zone, China has become the world's second-largest aviation market after the United States. The country is estimated to need 2,670 passenger planes in the next 20 years.

Airbus forecast last February that the Chinese mainland would need more than 3,000 aircraft between 2006 and 2025, including 180 super jumbo passenger planes.

In addition to the Tianjin assembly line, Airbus purchased US$70 million worth of high quality components and materials from Chinese companies in 2007 alone.


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