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Boeing to invest $100 mln in India maintenance unit

US aircraft manufacturer Boeing Co will supply India's national airline, Air India, with its first 787 Dreamliner in 2011, and invest $100 million in building a unit to maintain it, its India chief said.

Boeing will supply the first Dreamliner 787 aircraft to Air India by the second quarter of 2011, said Boeing India President Dinesh Keskar, adding that more planes would be delivered to the national carrier at a later stage.

He added that the maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) facility in the city of Nagpur should be up and running in two-and-a-half years. It will maintain the 787 and 777 aircraft, he added.

Boeing has completed initial airworthiness testing on the Dreamliner 787 and the aircraft has undergone 15 flights so far since the first flight in mid-December last year.

The first Dreamliner delivery is planned for the fourth quarter of this year, to All Nippon Airways Boeing officials said.

The Dreamliner twin-aisle, mid-sized plane, which can carry up to 330 people over very long distances, has initial orders of 840 aircraft from various airlines around the world.

Boeing has also received a request from India's defense ministry for supplying six mid-air refueling aircraft for its fighter jets, said Vivek Lall, India head of Boeing's Integrated Defence Systems.

Indian defense ministry officials said the refueller deal was valued at nearly $1.5 billion.

“We urgently need refuellers and we intend to speed up the acquisition process,” a senior defense ministry official, who wished to remain unnamed, said.

The Indian Air Force initially selected the Airbus A-330 MRTT (multi-role tanker transport) aircraft, but the government said it wanted to float a wider tender before the six new aircraft were finally chosen. (Reuters)