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Gref Lends Support to Regional Jet Plan

Economic Development and Trade Minister German Gref on Wednesday threw his weight behind the Russian Regional Jet, promising government support for the landmark project, which is expected to put Russia back on the map of global aviation.

"We have full confidence that this jet will be made," Gref told reporters after the project's presentation at the Moscow design bureau of fighter jet manufacturer Sukhoi, the leader of the project.

Gref, who in the past has criticized the Russian aviation industry, during the presentation repeatedly needled Sukhoi executives on whether their jet was in the same class as those made by Brazil's Embraer.

"I have sat in the Embraer cockpit, I suggest you do too," Gref told Sukhoi CEO Mikhail Pogosyan. Embraer, along with Canada's Bombardier, is a global leader in regional aircraft production.

Gref, however, said that his visit to Sukhoi boosted his confidence in the RRJ, and he confirmed that in the next three years the government would allocate 8.6 billion rubles ($300 million) for the project.

The funding, which is expected to cover more than one-third of the project's development, has already been included in the government's draft budget for 2006.

RRJ, a family of jets seating between 65 and 95 passengers, will be test flown in the first half of 2007 and will enter mass production in January 2008, with 60 jets to be made that year. Sukhoi plans to sell up to 750 such jets internationally by 2024, including 300 in Russia and the CIS.

Source: The Moscow Times

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