2 Diamond League track meets in China called off


MONACO (AP) — Two Diamond League track meets scheduled to be held in China were canceled Friday because of coronavirus-related restrictions and a substitute event in Poland was added to the calendar.

The mid-season meets in Shanghai and Shenzhen were called off “due to travel restrictions and strict quarantine requirements currently in place for entry into China,” organizers said in a statement.

The league said it “looks forward to hosting events in China again from 2023 onwards.”

The substitute event will be held in Chorzow, Poland, on Aug. 6. The series concludes at the Diamond League final in Zurich on Sept. 7-8.

China has stuck to its strict “zero-COVID” approach that restricts travel, tests entire cities and sets up sprawling facilities to try to isolate every infected person.

Two meets in China were also canceled last year for similar reasons.

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Covid Live Updates: Boosters, Mandates and China


Credit…Michelle Gustafson for The New York Times

With new coronavirus cases low but rising sharply in recent days, the city of Philadelphia announced on Monday that it will reinstate an indoor mask mandate a little more than a month after lifting it, becoming the first major U.S. city to do so.

“This is our chance to get ahead of the pandemic,” said Cheryl Bettigole, the city’s health commissioner, in a news conference. She acknowledged that the average number of daily new cases, currently at 142, is still nowhere near what it was at the beginning of the year, when the Omicron variant was pushing the seven-day average to nearly 4,000.

But she said that if the city failed to require masks now, “knowing that every previous wave of infections has been followed by a wave of hospitalizations, and then a wave of deaths, then it will be too late for many of our residents.” Over the past week, the city reported that the number of residents who had died of Covid-19 passed 5,000.

The mandate will go into effect next week. A spokesman for the city’s health department said it would end when case numbers and rates go beneath a certain threshold.

The decision comes as cases are ticking up across the country, fueled by the highly transmissible Omicron subvariant, known as BA.2. While the national increase is so far relatively small — about 3 percent over the last two weeks — the growth in cases in Northeastern cities like New York City and Washington, D.C., has been significantly steeper. Some colleges in the Northeast, including Columbia, Georgetown and Johns Hopkins, have reinstated indoor mask mandates in recent days.

Speaking at a virtual news conference on Monday afternoon, Mayor Eric Adams of New York City said that he would follow the advice of his health team in making any determination on reinstating mask mandates in spite of his positive test result on Sunday, rising virus cases in the city and Philadelphia’s decision.

“I am not special as being the mayor. What happens to me personally should not determine how I make policies,” Mr. Adams said. “It should be what happens to the City of New York.”

“I feel fine, no fever, no running nose, no aches and pains,” the mayor said, adding that with his health history of diabetes, “I would probably have had different outcomes if I was not vaccinated and boosted.”

Under Philadelphia’s Covid response plan, mitigation measures are triggered when caseloads or case trajectories pass certain thresholds. Since early March, as Omicron swiftly receded, the city had been at Level 1, or “all clear,” meaning most mandatory measures — including indoor mask mandates as well as proof-of-vaccine requirements in restaurants — had been lifted. Masks have no longer been required at city schools, though people visiting hospitals or riding public transportation still have had to wear them.

The indoor mask mandate is reinstated automatically when the city rises to Level 2, in which average new daily case counts and hospitalizations are still low but “cases have increased by more than 50 percent in the previous 10 days.” The health departments spokesman said over the last 10 days case the average number of news cases had risen nearly 70 percent.

Philadelphia’s system “allow us to be clear, transparent and predictable in our response to local Covid-19 conditions,” said Mayor Jim Kenney in a statement after the announcement was made. “I’m optimistic that this step will help us control the case rate,” he added.

The city’s decision is at odds with the recommendation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Basing its designation on hospital admissions among other benchmarks, the C.D.C. considers Philadelphia to have a “low” community level, and thus does not advise required masking.

Asked about the difference, Dr. Bettigole emphasized that “local conditions do matter” in making these decisions, and brought up the inequities in the virus’s impact. “We’ve all seen here in Philadelphia, how much our history of redlining, history of disparities has impacted, particularly our Black and brown communities in the city,” she said. “And so it does make sense to be more careful in Philadelphia, than, you know, perhaps in an affluent suburb.”

Jeffery C. Mays contributed reporting.



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State Department Warns US Citizens Against Travel to China, Hong Kong


The United States Department of State is warning U.S. citizens to reconsider travel to parts of the People’s Republic of China and to Hong Kong, citing a bevy of potential risk factors.

“Reconsider travel to the People’s Republic of China (PRC) due to arbitrary enforcement of local laws and COVID-19-related restrictions,” the State Dept. said in a travel advisory. “Do not travel to the PRC’s Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR), Jilin province, and Shanghai municipality due to COVID-19-related restrictions, including the risk of parents and children being separated. Reconsider travel to the PRC’s Hong Kong SAR due to arbitrary enforcement of local laws.”

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued a Level 1 Travel Health Notice for the PRC but a Level 4 Travel Health Notice for Hong Kong, due to COVID-19. The State Dept. stressed that the zero-tolerance approach to COVID-19 by the PRC and Hong Kong governments severely impacts travel and access to public services. All travelers should prepare to quarantine at a government-designated location for a minimum of 14 days upon arrival. While in quarantine, health authorities will test travelers as often as daily for COVID-19 and will not permit travelers to leave their rooms. Travelers who test positive during this quarantine time will be transferred to a government-designated medical facility, running the risk of splitting families.

In some cases, children in Hong Kong who test positive have been separated from their parents and kept in isolation until they meet local hospital discharge requirements.

“The PRC government arbitrarily enforces local laws, including carrying out arbitrary and wrongful detentions and using exit bans on U.S. citizens and citizens of other countries without due process of law,” the State Dept. wrote. “…In most cases, U.S. citizens only become aware of an exit ban when they attempt to depart the PRC, and there is no reliable mechanism or legal process to find out how long the ban might continue or to contest it in a court of law.”





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China Holiday Travel Slumps After COVID Outbreaks – State Media | World News


SHANGHAI (Reuters) – The number of journeys taken over China’s three-day Tomb Sweeping Festival holiday tumbled by nearly two-thirds from last year, state media said, citing data from the transport ministry, as authorities battle outbreaks of COVID-19 across the country.

The decline was worse than expected and comes as analysts warn that the economic cost of keeping infections to a minimum is likely to soar, with sectors like tourism bearing the biggest brunt.

Total trips – including rail, air, waterway and road – reached an estimated 53.78 million over the three-day period beginning on April 3, down 63%, the official Economic Daily reported late on Tuesday.

The figure was also about 10% lower than 2020, when parts of China were still recovering from the first coronavirus outbreak that began in central China’s Wuhan.

Air travel was worst hit, with total passenger numbers falling to an estimated 562,000, down 87% from a year ago and 54% down on 2020. Road journeys fell 53% on the year, and were also slightly lower than 2020.

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China’s transport ministry had said on Sunday that it expected road traffic to drop 20% and flights to fall 55% during the three-day holiday.

Throughout China, local authorities have been restricting traffic and subjecting travellers to strict testing requirements in order to curb an COVID-19 outbreak driven by the more infectious Omicron variant.

Nomura said in a note on Tuesday that around 193 million people are currently subject to full or partial lockdowns in 23 cities across China. The 23 cities account for 13.6% of the population and 22% of GDP.

“As has been the case over the last two years, the impact of containment measures has been most acute for the service sector and for smaller enterprises,” said Michael Hirson, China analyst with the Eurasia Group consultancy, which is tracking the impact of COVID controls on the Chinese economy.

“These segments are critical for China’s domestic economy, in particular for employment and thus consumption,” he added.

(This story corrects paragraph 5 to clarify that total passenger numbers, not flights, fell by 87%)

(Reporting by David Stanway; editing by Richard Pullin)

Copyright 2022 Thomson Reuters.



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China joins the hypersonic flight race


(CNN) — Shanghai to New York in just a couple of hours? Not a problem when you fly in a hypersonic space plane.

Beijing-based Space Transportation (aka Lingkong Tianxing in China) aims to make this prospect a reality with the development of a passenger-carrying vehicle that can hurtle across the skies at one mile per second — over twice the speed of Concorde.
The firm has released an animated publicity video showing passengers (no helmet or spacesuits required) board what appears to be a 12-seater space plane that nestles underneath an aerodynamic delta-shaped structure, flanked by two titanic booster rockets.

The vehicle launches vertically into the heavens, and upon reaching cruise altitude, the space plane separates from its boosters and then skims the edge of space at 7,000 kilometers (4,350 miles) per hour, landing vertically at its destination with the aid of a tripod-type undercarriage.

According to Space Transportation’s website, the company aims to launch its first suborbital space tourism test flight in 2025, followed by a “complete full-scale global hypersonic vehicle flight by 2030.”

The initiative, if realized, will be the embodiment of China’s ambitions to straddle the potentially lucrative niches of space tourism as well as hypersonic point-to-point flight for business travelers, and is backed by significant players in the Chinese investment landscape.

Last August, the undertaking garnered over 300 million yuan (about $47 million) in initial financing, jointly led by a Shanghai-based industrial investment fund led by Matrix Partners China and the state-owned Shanghai Guosheng Group.

CNN has reached out to Space Transportation for further comment on its launch plans but has yet to receive a response.

It is rocket science

China’s longstanding association with rocket tech dates back to the battle of Kai-Keng in 1232, when the country fended off Mongol invaders using a barrage of “arrows of flying fire.”

Chinese archers attached bamboo tubes stuffed with gunpowder to their arrows, which were ignited when launched.

In the present-day context of celestial rivalry, China’s main adversaries are now the US and Russia, while the territory being contested is the stratosphere and lower earth orbit.

The stakes are high, too. According to recent analysis by Emergen Research, “the global suborbital transportation and space tourism market revenue is expected to expand at a compound annual growth rate of 16.8%, and market size is projected to increase from $423.7 million in 2020 to $1.44 billion in 2028.”

Space tourism on the rise

Four people returned to Earth from a three-day extraterrestrial excursion aboard a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule, marking the end of the first-ever flight to Earth’s orbit flown entirely by tourists or otherwise non-astronauts.

For now, suborbital flights as a means of getting from point A to point B are a ways off.

But space junkies have an ever-expanding universe of options to choose from to get their cosmic fix — ultra-high altitude space balloons, parabolic flights for weightlessness experiences, and soon, even space walks might be possible.

SpaceX’s Polaris Dawn mission, slated to launch later this year from the historic Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, will spend up to five days in orbit, during which time the crew will attempt the first commercial spacewalk. The mission is a stepping stone towards eventual missions to the Moon, Mars and beyond.

But whatever flavor of space tourism piques the interest of wannabe astronauts, ticket prices are astronomic.

In December, for example, it was revealed that Grenada diplomat Justin Sun, founder of blockchain-based digital platform Tron, had placed a winning bid for a seat on Blue Origin’s reusable New Shepard rocket.

The $28 million bid money went to Blue Origin’s foundation, Club for the Future, which supports space-based charities to inspire future generations to pursue careers in STEM. Sun and five crewmates will fly on the New Shepard spaceship later this year.

Getting closer to the stars, last December, Japanese fashion magnate Yusaku Maezawa, his producer Yozo Hirano, and Russian cosmonaut Alexander Misurkin returned safely to Earth in a Russian Soyuz capsule after having spent 12 days on the International Space Station at a round-trip cost in the ballpark of $80 million.

And for those on a more modest budget, Virgin Galactic is offering 90-minute space flights, commencing in Q4 this year, at $450,000 a pop.
The cabin interior of Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo.

The cabin interior of Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo.

Virgin Galactic

“Demand for space travel is strong, and we’ve been selling seats ahead of the pace we had planned,” says Michael Colglazier, CEO of Virgin Galactic, in a statement. The company claims that approximately 700 seats have been sold to date.

But with the high cost of access to space, the market is, at least for now, seen as the exclusive preserve of the super affluent.

“Space tourism is still an emerging area and is very much a billionaire’s turf,” John H. Schmidt, global aerospace and defense industry lead at Accenture, tells CNN.

“While space tourism will likely ramp up, it will take considerable time until costs dramatically drop to reach a far broader audience of passengers than the billionaire-set.”

China gears up for hypersonic passenger flights

And that’s where China comes into the picture, with its demonstrable knack for identifying and formulating a scaled-up response to new market opportunities, and driving down prices for consumers.

China is already a significant player in space, with a nationally sponsored road map that supports a spectrum of initiatives, including satellite technologies, Moon and Mars landings, interplanetary voyages and deep space exploration.

In a white paper published by the State Council Information Office, China outlines its plans for bolstering its space economy objectives, and these include high-speed transporting of humans.

With space tourism’s lucrative potential, it’s hardly surprising that China has been ramping up resources and facilities to enable advancement of its own space plane proposition.

In March 2018, for example, China revealed that it was building a 265-meter-long wind tunnel, which can be used to test scale model hypersonic aircraft prototypes at speeds of up to Mach 25 (30,625 kph) at China’s State Key Laboratory of High Temperature Gas Dynamics of the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

“Hypersonic aircraft may be on the horizon, but we’re still at a very early stage. One of the big challenges is that this area requires rare skills. Governments are investing in research and pilot projects to explore what’s possible and develop the skills to someday build production hypersonic aircraft,” says Accenture’s Schmidt.

The viability of hypersonic business travel

But what about the broader prospects for space planes?

Executive travelers salivating at the possibility of significantly reducing their travel time (and experiencing breathtaking views of the planet along the way) now have a growing body of evidence to support the business case for high-Mach-speed business flights: Last year, NASA published the findings of two extensive and independent market studies into commercial hypersonic transportation.

The first study, produced by Deloitte and based upon work supported by NASA, quantifies the viability for business flights at a range of ultra-high speeds, modeling the business cases for all combinations of three primary variables: cruise Mach number (2.0-5.5); passenger capacity (20, 50 & 100) and range (2,500-9,000 nautical miles).

The study concluded that there is enough sustainable demand for high-speed transportation and that “demand will likely come from scheduled air passenger transportation (i.e. airline services) and private jet operations, inclusive of charter services, jet card or membership models.”

Virgin Galactic's SpaceshipTwo Unity completed its first successful test flight in 2020.

Virgin Galactic’s SpaceshipTwo Unity completed its first successful test flight in 2020.

Virgin Galactic

The analysis noted that transoceanic, global “crown jewel” routes are the likely market entry points for scheduled air transportation services, with New York-London; Miami-Sao Paulo; New York-Paris; Los Angeles-Sydney; and Sydney-Singapore being the most promising city pairs for hypersonic flights.

The report identified a total addressable market of 90 transoceanic routes that includes 2.25 million annual passengers and a potential for $16.5 billion in revenue. And from an airline operator’s perspective, the study concluded that “high-speed aircraft that are priced below $146 million remain attractive to operators and individuals alike.”

The second NASA study, produced by BryceTech and SAIC, modeled future demand and business operations at speeds between Mach 2 and Mach 7, forecasting premium air travel demand through the year 2060 and assessing the willingness of passengers of different income and wealth levels to pay to save time on flights. That analysis found that more than 300 city pairs can support high-speed commercial and general aviation.

Time is of the essence

“The question is, how many thousands of people a day are willing to pay a full first class fare; would they be willing to pay twice that much to go three or four times as fast? I think that ratio is important,” says Adam Dissel, president of Reaction Engines Inc.

Reaction Engines is a significant player in the global hypersonic ecosystem with its hydrogen-powered ‘SABRE (Synergetic Air Breathing Rocket Engine)’ a new class of engine for propelling both high speed aircraft and spacecraft. SABRE is unique in delivering the fuel efficiency of a jet engine with the power and high-speed ability of a rocket engine, designed for spaceplanes that can take off from a runway and go all the way to five times the speed of sound.

Reaction Engines' patented hybrid SABRE engine.

Reaction Engines’ patented hybrid SABRE engine.

Reaction Engines

The SABRE, Dissel tells CNN, “is an extremely natural fit for both high-speed point-to-point systems and for suborbital or orbital systems. It’s the first of its type and it’s a big enterprise to invent a new propulsion cycle from scratch.”

Dissel points to the main advantage between flying hypersonically vs supersonically by noting that “Concorde was a Mach 2-ish kind of aircraft. But you have to factor in arriving at the airport ahead of time, and the fact that Concorde had to take off, accelerate, climb — it wasn’t moving at Mach 2 the entire flight.”

Traveling from New York to London, instead of 10 hours from airport door to airport door, supersonic only changed that to seven hours, but it didn’t give the business traveler their day back.

“However,” says Dissel, “if you can start pushing above Mach 4, you get to a point where you actually could leave the East Coast of the US in the morning, be in London for afternoon meetings, and then be back home that same day. And so it’s a question of valuing time.”

Environmental sensibilities

While the time-saving benefits of hypersonic flight are irrefutable, the technical and regulatory hurdles ahead for hypersonic travel are numerous.

NASA’s market studies have identified a long checklist of hurdles to overcome, including sonic boom restrictions when flying over populated areas; safety certification; emissions concerns; and worries over operating at significantly higher altitudes where there’s the danger of exposure to radiation.

Additionally, there are challenges of having to build the space planes using special materials to cope with the speed and heat friction generated at high Mach speed. And then there would also have to be special pilot training for flying at the threshold of space.

An illustration of a SABRE-powered aircraft.

An illustration of a SABRE-powered aircraft.

Reaction Engines

Most of these challenges are technical, which means they’re surmountable at a price. But unlike in the age of Concorde, whose design and development was propped up with an almost limitless supply of public money injected from British and French taxpayers, tomorrow’s hypersonic space planes will mainly be financed through the private sector.

The other major difference is that unlike the 1960s, present day sensibilities are more focused around air travel’s environmental impact. The optics won’t look good if hypersonic travelers brag on social media about their two-hour flight from Beijing to Dubai if they’re going to provoke spaceflight shaming because they’ve polluted the planet in the process.

“All these companies are trying various methods to offer both the highest speed system and also one that, at least end to end, has a better environmental footprint,” says Dissel.

One of the most critically important determinants of the uptake and eventual success of hypersonic flight, Dissel suggests, “is trying to figure out how you go to zero carbon fuels — that’s something you’ll have to solve.”

The journey of a thousand miles begins …

Where does all this leave China’s aspirations as it stakes its place in the civil space economy? While Space Transportation (Lingkong Tianxing) has its work cut out for it addressing the technicalities to bring its space plane to market as a privately funded venture, it does appear to have the blessing of the state behind it.

And that could be a differentiating factor.

To overcome the long list of hurdles to make hypersonic flight a reality for the broader business travel market — and not just for an elite cohort of super-rich space tourists — the world’s competing space plane builders are going to need deep pockets.

Paul Sillers is an aviation journalist specializing in passenger experience and future air travel tech. Follow him at @paulsillers



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China expects sharp drop in holiday travel due to COVID outbreaks


Airline staff wear personal protective equipment (PPE) to protect against coronavirus disease (COVID-19) disease as they work at Beijing Capital International airport in Beijing, China March 13, 2022. REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun

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BEIJING, April 3 (Reuters) – China’s transport ministry expects a 20% drop in road traffic and a 55% fall in flights during the three-day Qingming holiday due to a flare-up of COVID-19 cases in the country.

More than 27 Chinese provinces and regions have recently reported coronavirus cases, mostly the highly transmissible Omicron variant, forcing the authorities to impose stringent mobility restrictions or even city-wide lockdowns.

Chinese typically travel back to their home towns to worship their ancestors during the tomb-sweeping festival.

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The average daily number of vehicles on the roads are estimated to reach 39-40 million during the holiday, which kicks off on April 3, down 21% from the same period last year, according to a statement from the Ministry of Transport.

The number of planned flights was forecast to decrease by 55% this holiday from the year before, with air travellers also at only 20% of last year’s levels, the ministry said.

China on Sunday reported a total of 13,287 new daily cases for April 2, the highest level since February 2020. read more

The country’s “dynamic clearance” COVID policy has dampened consumption of transportation fuels in China. The two-stage lockdown in financial hub of Shanghai, starting from March 28, could reduce fuel demand by 200,000 barrels per day.

Authorities across China have also implemented anti-COVID measures at entertainment sites during the Qingming holiday, including limiting the number of tourists and requesting for negative nucleic testing results from inter-provincial travellers.

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Reporting by Muyu Xu and Tony Munroe; Editing by Jacqueline Wong

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.



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China Expects Sharp Drop in Holiday Travel Due to COVID Outbreaks | World News


BEIJING (Reuters) – China’s transport ministry expects a 20% drop in road traffic and a 55% fall in flights during the three-day Qingming holiday due to a flare-up of COVID-19 cases in the country.

More than 27 Chinese provinces and regions have recently reported coronavirus cases, mostly the highly transmissible Omicron variant, forcing the authorities to impose stringent mobility restrictions or even city-wide lockdowns.

Chinese typically travel back to their home towns to worship their ancestors during the tomb-sweeping festival.

The average daily number of vehicles on the roads are estimated to reach 39-40 million during the holiday, which kicks off on April 3, down 21% from the same period last year, according to a statement from the Ministry of Transport.

The number of planned flights was forecast to decrease by 55% this holiday from the year before, with air travellers also at only 20% of last year’s levels, the ministry said.

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China on Sunday reported a total of 13,287 new daily cases for April 2, the highest level since February 2020.

The country’s “dynamic clearance” COVID policy has dampened consumption of transportation fuels in China. The two-stage lockdown in financial hub of Shanghai, starting from March 28, could reduce fuel demand by 200,000 barrels per day.

Authorities across China have also implemented anti-COVID measures at entertainment sites during the Qingming holiday, including limiting the number of tourists and requesting for negative nucleic testing results from inter-provincial travellers.

(Reporting by Muyu Xu and Tony Munroe; Editing by Jacqueline Wong)

Copyright 2022 Thomson Reuters.



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China OKs U.S. NTSB travel to take part in Boeing 737-800 crash probe


rescue workers work at the site where a China Eastern Airlines Boeing 737-800 plane flying from Kunming to Guangzhou crashed, in Wuzhou, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, China March 24, 2022. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins/File Photo

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WASHINGTON, March 29 (Reuters) – (This March 29 story corrects to show CFM representatives will not travel to China after NTSB issued revised statement.)

China has issued visas to American investigators and technical advisers to support its investigation into last week’s deadly crash of a China Eastern Airlines (600115.SS) Boeing 737-800 in that country, the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board said on Tuesday.

“The team hopes to depart this week,” the NTSB said in a tweet.

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In addition to NTSB investigators, China has issued visas to technical advisers from the Federal Aviation Administration and Boeing Co. (BA.N).

It is still unclear whether the U.S. team will need to quarantine in China under its COVID-19 protocols, the NTSB said, adding that the issue is still under discussion. China has been experiencing a surge in coronavirus cases.

The plane crashed into a mountainside in southern China on March 21, killing all 132 people onboard, in mainland China’s deadliest aviation disaster in 28 years. Recovery crews on Sunday found the second black box – the flight data recorder – in the wreckage.

The NTSB has been in regular contact with the Civil Aviation Administration of China since the crash. Under an international agreement, the NTSB has the right to participate since the plane was designed and built in the United States.

FAA Administrator Steve Dickson told reporters on Tuesday he was encouraged by indications that China is following its obligations under that treaty.

“We’re ready to go,” Dickson said, but added: “We’re not over yet — so that needs to happen.” He noted there were ongoing discussions between China and the United States about outstanding issues including China’s COVID-19 protocols.

Jet engine maker CFM is a joint venture between General Electric (GE.N) and France’s Safran (SAF.PA) and is a technical adviser to the NTSB as part of the investigation. However, representatives from CFM will not travel to China, the U.S. agency said, after saying earlier that they were planning to go.

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Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Franklin Paul and Jonathan Oatis

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.



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