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China's United Eagle to buy ARJ21s once Comac buys the airline

Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China (Comac) plans to become the largest shareholder in Sichuan-based carrier United Eagle Airlines which in turn plans to order 30 Comac ARJ21s.

Sichuan Airlines Group owns 76 percent of United Eagle but an official at Sichuan Airlines, who wishes to remain anonymous, says Comac plans to buy a 48 percent stake which will leave Sichuan Airlines Group with 40.97 percent.

He also says a local company in Chengdu plans to buy the remaining 11.03 percent. Reports in China say the local company is Sichuan Communication Investment Group.

While Comac is planning to become the largest shareholder, the Sichuan Airlines official says United Eagle plans to place an order for 30 Comac ARJ21-700s with the first to be delivered late next year.

The ARJ21-700 is a new aircraft type currently working to get Chinese certification.

China's Kunpeng Airlines is suppose to be the ARJ21 launch operator and is due to receive its first aircraft in late 2010.

United Eagle is a relatively small carrier based in Chengdu that operates Airbus A320s. It launched operations in 2005 and was China's first privately-owned carrier but then it experienced financial problems and Sichuan Airlines Group took it over in March of this year.

Sichuan Airlines Group tried to integrate it with Sichuan Airlines in an effort to make the business profitable.

Comac's move to buy in, means it has a ready airline customer for its Chinese-made aircraft.

It also follows a similar move by Chinese aircraft-maker Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC) which earlier this year established Xingfu Airlines in Xian. This carrier operate's AVIC's Xian Aircraft MA60 turboprops.

Comac officials were unavailable for comment when contacted by ATI today.

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