Paul Lewis/BEIJING

Chinese and European aerospace negotiators have still to clear major obstacles before any final agreement can be reached for joint development of a new 90- to 140-seat regional aircraft.

One of the most critical issues yet to be resolved by the two sides is the cost of technology transfer. According to sources in Beijing, Aero International Asia (AIA) is asking Aviation Industries of China (AVIC) for up to $250 million, in return for European expertise.

"The price will always be the key issue to negotiate. You can't expect us to solve this now-we need some time," says Tang Xiaoping, AVIC International co-operation director. "I have confidence that we can solve this problem," he adds.

In addition to trying to reach a consensus on the value of Europe's technical input, the issue is further complicated by the method of payment. Sources suggest this could take the form of a one-off payment, royalties on the aircraft sold, or offset against Europe's proposed 39% stake in the programme.

Technology transfer would focus mainly on bringing Chinese aircraft design, programme management, production, testing and certification capabilities in line with international standards.

AVIC is emphasising the development of a family of three differently sized AE-100s, seating 90-100, 115-120 and 135-140, respectively. It wants to strengthen the aircraft's international sales potential by bringing Airbus Industrie into the programme.

AVIC says that it has not yet decided whether to fit the AE-100 with an A320-type fly-by-wire flight-control system, suggesting that cost would be a big consideration. "The basic question is how much technology should we use and what kind ," adds Tang.

Another issue still be settled is the overlap in seat size between the planned AE-100 family and existing 124-seat A319. Officials suggest the issue could be deferred.

Source: Flight International