Brunei-based GallopAir, buyer of COMAC planes, says in talks with potential investors

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KUALA LUMPUR : GallopAir, a new Brunei-based airline, is in talks with potential investors and plans to launch operations after taking delivery of its first Chinese aircraft in the second half of next year, its chief executive told Reuters.

GallopAir last month announced a $2 billion deal to buy 30 regional and narrow-body jets from Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China (COMAC). It became the first carrier outside China to order the state-backed firm's narrow-body C919 jet.

It is in discussions with "several prospective investors", and is seeking opportunities for collaboration and investment from the Brunei government and local companies, CEO Cham Chi said in an emailed statement to Reuters.

Chi said the airline, owned by Chinese businessman Yang Qiang, expects to take delivery of its first ARJ21 aircraft in the third quarter of 2024 pending regulatory approvals.

The delivery of the 30 planes will occur in phases over the next several years, and will depend on the production schedule, regulatory approvals and the company's operational readiness, he added.

"Our priority is to have the ARJ21 aircraft certified first as our first phase of operation is to operate the ARJ21," Chi said. "Its capacity and range are well-suited to our initial routes and the budget-conscious market segment we aim to serve."

GallopAir will start with short-haul flights and then expand to medium-haul routes serving Southeast Asia, North Asia and the Southwest Pacific regions, he said.

Brunei, home to fewer than 500,000 people, is not a major tourist destination but GallopAir said it aims to turn the country into a regional aviation hub.

GallopAir, incorporated in January this year, is owned by Yang, who is also chairman of China's Shaanxi Tianju Group, through a Singapore-based entity. The Chinese connection played a part in GallopAir choosing to source its planes from COMAC, Chi said.

It will be the second Brunei-based airline operator after national carrier Royal Brunei Airlines when it commences operations.

Some lessors and banks have expressed interest in financing the COMAC purchase, Chi also said without elaborating.

GallopAir must obtain a safety and airworthiness certificate for the COMAC aircraft from Brunei's Department of Civil Aviation before getting an operational certificate, he added.

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