Low labour costs and huge market potential make country attractive assembly site

A group of Dutch investors has signed an agreement with China's Hongdu Aviation that the partners hope will lead to the revival of Fokker 70/100 production in Nanchang by the end of next year.

The project is being led by Joep van den Nieuwenhuyzen, the chairman, chief executive and owner of Netherlands-based military and industrial concern RDM Holding, which owns MD Helicopters. He says the owner of Belgium's VLM Airlines, Jaap Rosen Jacobsen, is also involved, as are other unidentified partners.

Jacobsen founded Rekkof Restart in the late 1990s in a bid to relaunch Fokker aircraft production following the company's 1996 bankruptcy, but the project failed.

Van den Nieuwenhuyzen claims the partners have access to $700 million, which is considered necessary for the project to go ahead. He says China is an ideal location for production because of its low labour costs and market potential for regional jet sales.

Van den Nieuwenhuyzen has been working on the project for several years. He says an agreement was signed with Hongdu Aviation, a subsidiary of Chinese manufacturing giant China Aviation Industry Corporation II (AVIC II), in September, covering Fokker JetLine family aircraft production in Nanchang, in north-east China. "At the end of next year we hope to get production started," he says.

Van den Nieuwenhuyzen says talks must still be held with Stork, which owns Fokker support arm Fokker Services and Fokker Aerostructures, on a number of issues related to production.

He adds that the partners view China as a huge potential market, although he declines to reveal forecasts for sales in the country. He also says aircraft "will be sold in the international market".

Hongdu Aviation manufactures military trainer aircraft and general aviation aircraft. It is unclear how much support it is getting from its parent company AVIC II on the possibility of Fokker production, as AVIC II is in advanced talks with Embraer to set up an ERJ-145 assembly line in China. At the same time fellow state-owned manufacturing giant AVIC I is seeking to develop its own regional jet aircraft family.

Source: Flight International