China has begun construction of an aircraft engine assembly and test centre in Shanghai.
Work on the $1.3bn facility started in March.
The centre is a subsidiary of AVIC Commercial Aircraft Engine Co (ACAE), which was set up to develop a home-grown engine, and will be the first in China. Located at the Shanghai Lingang Industrial Park, it will have six divisions: design, assembly, testing, customer centre, maintenance and repair.
According to ACAE vice president Zhang Yujin, the repair centre will be finished by 2013, followed by the customer centre and a production line in 2014.
Zhang said engineers at the company’s R&D centre have completed the design of the indigenous engine and are now working on the components of the powerplant.
Provisionally known as China Heart, the engine will eventually power China’s first home-designed and produced 150-seat jet aircraft, the Comac 919, as an alternative to the CFM engines that will be used initially.
ACAE aims to start mass production of the engines in March 2020 and testing two months later.
The workforce of the centre will be expanded by 300 to 815 by the fourth quarter of 2012. Zhang said 300 skilled western-trained engineers are currently in the process of being hired.
“This is an ambitious project through which China hopes to successfully produce the engines and gain certification to end the country’s dependence on western engines for its aircraft,” Zhang declared.
The C919 is expected to make its maiden flight in 2014 and go into commercial service in 2016. CFM International (a 50-50 joint venture between Safran of France and GE Aviation) has secured a $10bn contract to supply the LEAP X (Leading Edge Aviation Propulsion) engines.