American jets for Chinese airline

In civil aircraft, China is buying American. CAAC, China's sole airline company, has signed a contract to buy 10 Boeing 737-200s from the Seattle-based company, Monitor correspondent Takashi Oka reports.

Boeing chairman Thornton Wilson and Hu Yizhou, deputy director general of CAAC, announced the most recent sale Tuesday. The contract is understood to be worth $16 million per plane, or nearly $200 million, including spare parts. Chinese officials said CAAC is still negotiating to buy a couple more 747sp (special performance) aircraft. These are larger and costlier than the 737. CAAC has also been talking with other airplane manufacturers, both American and European. It is understood to be close to a decision to buy two DC-9s from McDonnell Douglas.

Both Boeing and McDonnell Douglas have given Chinese airplane manufacturers orders for airplane components. The aircraft factory in Shanghai makes doors and other parts for McDonnell Douglas, while the Xian aircraft factory makes much simpler items for Boeing. China would like to do more and Mr. Wilson suggested that China might someday be assembling planes for Boeing.

China's own aircraft industry lags at least 20 years behind that of major Western nations, air-related observers here believe. But the Chinese are eager to catch up. During the past two years China has managed to build its own version of the Boeing 707, using spare Pratt & Whitney engines. Only one model has actually flown. CAAC's profit in l981 exceeded 100 million yuan (more than $ 50 million), Mr. Hu said. Its fleet is composed of aging Soviet Tupolevs and Ilyushins, as well as British Viscount turboprops and more recently, Tridents.

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