GE to Buy Five Chinese Jets

GE has an option for 20 more

The aircraft leasing unit of General Electric signed a contract on Nov. 4 with The Commercial Aircraft Corp.of China (CACC), for five regional jets with an option to buy 20 more, the two companies said.

The contract, signed on the sidelines of Airshow China in the southern Chinese city of Zhuhai, makes GE Commercial Aviation Services the first global lessor to add Chinese-made ARJ21 jets to its fleet, they said.

"We have firm orders for five ARJs with options to add more to our fleet in the future," Norman Liu, executive vice president of GE Commercial Aviation Services said. "The ARJ 21 will help fulfill the growing need within China for fast, efficient regional air travel," he said.

CACC will start delivery of the ARJ21s -- which stands for Advanced Regional Jet for the 21st Century -- in 2013. There was no mention of a price tag for the planes, which can carry between 70 and 110 passengers. But the Guangzhou Daily previously reported the contract would be worth $735 million.

The ARJ21 and other jets to be produced by CACC are widely seen as part of a Chinese plan to eventually rival the dominance of aviation giants Airbus and Boeing. However, fulfilling that goal is not expected to occur at least until 2020, CACC chief Jin Zhuanglong was quoted as saying by state media earlier this year.

A collection of 19 foreign companies -- including General Electric -- are supplying components to the aircraft, according to state press.

Boeing and Airbus are among 600 civil and military manufacturers and parts suppliers from 35 countries at the airshow amid hopes China's growing aviation market could cushion the impact of the global financial crisis on the industry.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2008

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