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China’s Comac Gets Interest From Foreign Firms for C919 Planes

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Comac ARJ21
Models of Commercial Aircraft Corp. of China Ltd.'s (Comac) ARJ21 regional passenger aircraft stand under covers at the Singapore Airshow. Photographer: Brent Lewin/Bloomberg

Feb. 12 (Bloomberg) -- Commercial Aircraft Corp. of China has received inquiries from potential foreign buyers for its in-development C919 model, the nation’s first large passenger plane, as it seeks to break Boeing Co. and Airbus Group NV’s stranglehold on the global aircraft market.

Comac, as the company is also known, targets “no fewer than” 30 new orders this year, Dang Tiehong, deputy general manager for sales and marketing, said at the Singapore Airshow today. New orders could come from both Chinese and foreign companies, Dang said.

Shanghai-based Comac’s backlog of 400 orders for the 168-seat C919 is mostly from Chinese airlines and lessors. The company delayed the maiden flight of C919 to 2015 from an earlier plan for this year because of procedures that aren’t linked to technical matters, according to Dang.

“We’re currently meeting with a few customers overseas who show some interest in making future orders,” Dang said. “In terms of the price range for C919, we have a competitive edge over similar models from our rivals.”

GE Capital Aviation Services is the only confirmed foreign customer for the C919. The General Electric Co. leasing arm has signed on to take 20 of the planes. Fairfield, Connecticut-based GE will also supply engines for the aircraft through CFM International, a venture with Safran SA.

ARJ21 Certification

Comac expects to receive certification from the Civil Aviation Administration of China, or CAAC, for its ARJ21 regional jet this year, Tian Min, the company’s chief financial officer, said at the airshow today.

Approval for the ARJ21 is taking longer than expected because it is the first time that Comac has built a jet plane and the first time that the Chinese aviation regulator has had to certify one. The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration is shadowing the CAAC to certify the regional aircraft, which is more than five years late.

“Technically speaking, the CAAC certification process is actually as rigorous as the FAA’s,” Dang said. “To get a FAA certification, it’s not simply a technical issue. It’s also related to the governments of both countries.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Jasmine Ng in Singapore at jng299@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Anand Krishnamoorthy at anandk@bloomberg.net

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