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Sino Swearingen jet passes initial tests

March 25, 1999|By DAVE McMILLION, Charles Town

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - The Sino Swearingen SJ30-2 corporate jet that is to be assembled in Berkeley County has completed its first 300 hours of flight testing, and the start-up date for the local factory remains on schedule, according to a company spokesman.

The 300 hours of flight testing, conducted in San Antonio, Texas, was done partly to confirm the plane's range and speed projections, according to Sino Swearingen spokesman Mike S. Potts.

The plane that was used to conduct the test flights will be retired, and Sino Swearingen will build five new jets at its San Antonio location. Those planes will be used for FAA certification of the SJ30-2, Potts said.

FAA certification could be complete in a little over a year, Potts said Wednesday.

Sino Swearingen officials are still planning to assemble the first jet in Martinsburg in May 2000.

"We've seen all the critical milestones, so we know we're on target," Potts said.

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Industry analysts recently said that delays in production of the SJ30-2 could create problems for the company. While Sino Swearingen has been dealing with the delays, other plane makers are introducing similar jets, one of which could beat the SJ30-2 to the market, industry officials said.

Sino Swearingen initially had planned to begin making its jet this month, but there have been delays related to design changes and federal approval.

Although Sino Swearingen officials say they have been unhappy with the delays, they say the SJ30-2 will survive in the market because it is the only plane of its kind that will be sold for $4 million.

The SJ30-2 is capable of flying at 560 mph, can travel 2,875 miles before refueling and uses a special design that reduces jet lag. To find another plane with the same features would cost about $16 million, Potts said.

Numerous suppliers and manufacturers are involved in the production of the SJ30-2, including Gamaesa Aeronautics, a manufacturer in Spain that will build the fuselage and wings. The parts will be shipped to Martinsburg for assembly.

Sino Swearingen estimates about 300 people will work in Martinsburg to assemble the planes.

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