CHINA NATIONAL Aviation (CNAC) is understood to be close to finalising an agreement with General Electric Capital Aviation Services (GECAS) to lease a Boeing 737-500 for its planned Hong Kong airline

The start-up carrier, to be named China Hongkong Airlines, plans to dry-lease the 737 for five years. CNAC wants to take delivery of the CFM56-3C-powered aircraft as soon as an agreement is concluded with GECAS.

The 1992-build 737, was operated formerly, by Mexican carrier Transportes Aereos Ejecutivos, but is now in the USA for maintenance. The aircraft is configured for a single-class all-economy layout, seating 132 passengers.

CNAC is expected to receive its key air-operator's certificate (AoC) from the Hong Kong Civil Aviation Department by April. The aircraft will then initially be used for charter flights between the UK colony and China.

As part of its AoC application, CNAC has embarked on a major recruitment drive for 737-qualified line maintenance, quality assurance, planning/schedules and technical-services engineers. The Chinese company has already recruited some former Cathay Pacific, Dragonair and Air Hong Kong staff.

They include Air Hong Kong founder Thomas Tsang and ex-Dragonair operations manager Lew Roberts. The move by China-controlled CNAC to establish a Hong Kong-based carrier has provoked loud protests from de facto flag carrier Cathay (Flight International, 31 January-6 February, P8).

Source: Flight International