China Southern gets first Chinese-built ERJ-145s

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China Southern Airlines has taken delivery of the first Embraer ERJ-145 regional jets to be produced under licence in China.

Guangzhou-based China Southern took delivery of two ERJ-145s today. It will be putting the aircraft into operation by the weekend, Embraer executive vice president civil aircraft Fred Curado says from the northeast city of Harbin, where the Brazilian manufacturer’s Chinese joint venture, Harbin Embraer Aircraft Industry, held a delivery ceremony.

Curado says the airline’s four other 50-seat ERJ-145s on firm order will be delivered through January 2005.

Harbin Embraer currently only has the six-aircraft order on its books but expects to secure at least one more order before the end of the year.

“We are constantly looking for new prospects,” says Curado.

“It is not only an objective to expand the fleet of China Southern but to add new customers.

“We expect another contract this year.

Regional aircraft manufacturers face major obstacles in China such as a regulatory regime that often fails to take into account aircraft size when levying charges such as landing fees. But Curado says there are signs the regulatory environment is about to become more favourable.

“The environment and the market has been difficult for small aircraft in China…but we have had formal and informal indications from the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) that they want to create a local planning regime [that]…helps with development of regional aircraft in China,” he says.

Curado adds that regional aircraft development is in line with the Chinese Government’s broader objective to develop the western regions of the country because regional aircraft are best suited for services to these remote regions.

China Southern says in a statement that it will use its ERJ-145s on domestic routes such as those to regional cities including Nantong, near Shanghai; Luoyang, in northeast China; Zhoushan, south of Shanghai; and Yichang, located between Chengdu and Shanghai.

Curado says the airline will primarily be using the ERJ-145s to replace Boeing 737s on some routes and to open new routes.

Already 20 of China Southern’s pilots have been trained to operate the ERJ-145 thanks to courses they did at Flight Safety’s Le Bourget Learning Centre in Paris.

China Southern’s ERJ-145s will be based at Guangzhou. Associate carrier Sichuan Airlines, based in the southwest city of Chengdu, is currently the only ERJ-145 operator in China with five of the type. These aircraft, acquired in 2000, were built in Brazil.