Asian upstarts eye global aircraft market
* Big growth seen in short-haul routes in Asia
* Asian aerospace firms aim to compete with Bombardier, Embraer
* But small plane makers find headwinds over safety concerns
By Siva Govindasamy
SINGAPORE, March 29 (Reuters) - Indonesia is about to roll out its first passenger plane, one of several smaller, homegrown aircraft being studied in Asia, designed especially for short hops across the region's emerging markets, where air travel is booming.
State-owned aerospace firm PT Dirgantara Indonesia's 19-seat N219, which cost $400 million and took just over five years to make, is scheduled to make its first flight in June and start deliveries in 2018.
South Korea is mulling a 100-seat aircraft, and India has considered a 70-90 seater.
Novices in a highly competitive industry, these largely state-owned manufacturers are betting on growing passenger numbers and an increase in short flights operated by small, efficient craft. The planned craft would be smaller than the Airbus 320 or Boeing 737, which seat between about 150 and 190 passengers.
Instead, they aim to be cost-effective, nimble alternatives to planes produced by Brazil's Embraer, Canada's Bombardier, and European firm ATR, a joint venture between Airbus and Finmeccanica. Continued...