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Jumbo jet another step nearer

CHINA began construction of a research and development center for the country's first home-produced jumbo jet project in Shanghai's Zhangjiang High-Tech Park yesterday in another step toward achieving its ambition of producing a globally competitive jet.

The center, covering a floor area of 600,000 square meters, will be in operation by the end of 2011 to mainly research and develop jumbo jets and regional aircraft, plane maker Commercial Aircraft Corp of China said.

It will be in six sections, including a research and development zone, a technology innovation zone and experimental zone, and will house 3,500 to 5,000 staff.

"The center will not only serve the single aisle C919 jumbo jet and ARJ21 regional jet, but also be prepared for wide-body twin aisle jets in the future," said Jin Zhuanglong, the company's general manager.

The center is one of three major centers for the jumbo jet project. An assembly center is based at both the Shanghai Aircraft Manufacturing Factory on Dachang Road and an area near the city's Pudong International Airport, and a customer service center is in Zizhu Park in Minhang District.

China is to invest 200 billion yuan (US$29.28 billion) in developing its domestic jumbo jet, with 60 billion yuan to be spent in the next three to five years.

All facets of the process - from design to production - will be done in China in a bid to reduce the country's reliance on overseas firms.

An initial design has been completed and the aircraft is due to make its maiden flight in 2014 and is expected to 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 make breakthroughs in some key technologies, including in engines and composite materials.


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