Mainland-built large aircraft 10 to 20 years away

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 04 March, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 04 March, 2008, 12:00am


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The mainland's ambition to have a 'large domestic aircraft' to challenge the world's industry giants Boeing and Airbus will be realised in 10 to 20 years, the country's top aviation expert predicts.

Speaking on the sidelines of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, which opened yesterday, Wu Guanghui , director of the No1 Aircraft Design Institute under the China Aviation Industry Corp 1 (Avic 1), said China's aircraft industry was not very far behind the world's leaders - probably just 'five years behind'.

'If the chain of funding doesn't break ... I believe, with the government's strong support, we can beat [the world's industry leaders] in 10 to 20 years,' Mr Wu was quoted by China News Service as saying.

Mr Wu, tipped to be appointed master designer of a new company, which will be established by March to design and build large jets, said the mainland's civil aviation industry was 'childish'.

Citing the history of Boeing and Airbus, Mr Wu said it would be a 'very long process' to crack problems such as fostering the market, training the pilots and establishing a maintenance system.

The mainland has hoped to challenge the dominance of Boeing and Airbus in the local market by developing its own large aircraft - with more than 100 seats or weighing above 100 tonnes.

There have been efforts to realise the domestic jet ambitions in past decades, but the plans were abolished because of political and financial reasons. Last year, the State Council approved the start of research for what the government calls a 'large passenger plane'.

Premier Wen Jiabao visited Xian Aircraft Industry (Group), part of Avic 1 and said Chinese-made large aircraft was a 'significant' strategy.

China has just finished its first domestically designed commercial jet the ARJ21, also manufactured and assembled by Avic 1 and claimed to be the country's first using its own intellectual property. But local content accounts for about 60 per cent and about 19 foreign companies have participated in the project.