Avic I, Bombardier in development venture

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 04 September, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 04 September, 2007, 12:00am

China Aviation Industry Corp I, maker of the first mainland-designed aircraft, will team up with Canadian firm Bombardier to develop a stretch version of the ARJ21-900 advanced regional jet, at an estimated research and development cost of about US$300 million.

The avionics of the new aircraft are similar to the ARJ21-700, said Chen Guanjun, vice-president for Avic I, on the sidelines of the Asian Aerospace conference in Hong Kong yesterday. The ARJ21-900 can accommodate 105 passengers, compared with the 90-seat configuration of the ARJ21-700.

Avic I is joining Bombardier more for marketing and economic reasons than technological ones.

'Bombardier is moving up to the big aircraft market and leaving a gap that we can fill,' Mr Chen said. 'We want to share our market resources and rationalise our technical resources as well.'

Avic I and Bombardier have signed a memorandum of understanding and are expected to sign a formal contract by the end of this year, he said.

Avic I so far has received 71 firm orders for the ARJ21-700, mainly from domestic airlines, such as Shandong Airlines, Shanghai Airlines and Xiamen Airlines, as well as two mainland aircraft leasing companies, Shenzhen Financial Leasing and SE Leasing.

'We expect to sell 500 ARJ21s [category aircraft] in the next 10 years, since the demand in China and India is so big,' Mr Chen said.

The number of mainland air passengers is expected to reach 270 million by 2010, up almost 70 per cent from last year, while India expects its passenger numbers to exceed 29 million in 2010, up more than 81 per cent from 16 million last year.

Other than these two fastest-growing economies, Mr Chen also is eyeing Malaysia and Indonesia as target customers.