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Indonesian firm signs MoU to buy Chinese ARJ21s, Y12s and helicopters

China has secured a tentative deal with Indonesia for the sale of Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China (Comac) ARJ21 regional jets, Harbin Y12 turboprops and Avicopter helicopters.

Privately-owned Indonesian mining company Merkukh Enterprises has signed a memorandum of understanding with AVIC International to purchase Chinese-built aircraft, confirms AVIC International civil marketing division managing director Xu Bo. He was responding to Indonesian news reports quoting Merkukh's president director Rudy Merukh.

Merukh says the mining company plans to buy 24 Harbin Y12IVs, six Avicopter H425 helicopters and nine Comac ARJ21s. It will pay for the purchases by selling coal, nickel and copper to China over a 30-year period, he says.

The deal also involves Merkukh buying ships, property and mining trucks from China.

Merkukh Enterprises owns Indonesian carriers, Dirgantara Air Services and Sabang Merauke Air Charter (SMAC), and plans to place the Chinese aircraft with these airlines.

SMAC president director, Budi Tutuko, says Merkukh Enterprises bought SMAC at the end of last year from local company PT Anugerah Angkasa and Singapore infrastructure and engineering firm Boustead.

The charter carrier operates one Indonesian Aerospace NC 212-100 and two NC 212-200s and by year-end hopes to start taking delivery of the Chinese aircraft starting with the Harbin Y12s, he says.

SMAC needs the fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters because it is doing more charter work for Merkukh Enterprises and other mining companies, says Tutuko, adding that he anticipates the Chinese aircraft will be shared equally between SMAC and Dirgantara Air Services.

Indonesian Aerospace is pitching its new 19-seat N219 turboprop to airlines such as SMAC.

But Indonesian Aerospace has yet to formally launch the N219 programme. Tutuko says one advantage the Y12 has over the N219 is that the Chinese Part 23 aircraft already has FAA certification.

A senior official at Dirgantara Air Services, who wishes to remain anonymous, says that the airline plans to receive some of the Chinese aircraft.

Merkukh Enterprises bought Dirgantara Air Services in August 2009, says the official.

The scheduled and charter airline operates two Britton-Norman Islanders and one Indonesian Aerospace NC 212-100, he adds.

China is becoming increasingly involved in Indonesia's commodities sector and AVIC International, which is the international marketing arm of state-owned aircraft manufacturing conglomerate China Aviation Industries, has done non-cash deals with developing countries in the past. It has, for example, sold aircraft to African nations in return for fishing rights.

China's Xian Aircraft also signed a deal in 2006 for the sale of 15 Xian Aircraft MA60s to Indonesia's Merpati Nusantara although so far the carrier has received only two aircraft.

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