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Myanma Air to lease up to a dozen Boeing jets: sources

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Myanma Airways is set to order up to a dozen Boeing 737 jets on lease in what appears to be the largest single fleet expansion in Myanmar as the country opens up to business and tourism, aviation industry sources said.

The aircraft will be provided by the world's largest leasing company, General Electric's aviation leasing arm GECAS, the sources said, asking not to be identified.

The decision is expected to be announced at the Singapore Airshow, which runs from Feb 11 to 16.

The airline could not be reached for comment. Boeing declined to comment.

State-run Myanma Airways, which owns 20 percent of flag carrier Myanmar Airways International, currently flies only domestic routes. Experts say the 160-seat Boeing 737 would give the airline flexibility and range to operate internationally.

Leasing companies rent aircraft to airlines in exchange for a monthly fee. Each 737 aircraft is worth around $90 million at list prices when ordered directly from planemaker Boeing.

After years of isolation, Myanmar is seen as one of the last frontiers for aviation in Asia.

Passenger numbers are surging as new airlines spring up and foreign carriers rush in.

However there are concerns about the lack of infrstracture and the country suffers a poor safety record.

Myanma Airways grounded its three Chinese-made Xian MA60s in 2012 after two of the turboprop aircraft suffered accidents on landing within a month, the deputy head of the Department of Civil Aviation told Reuters last year [ID:nL3N0I62A3].

(Reporting by Tim Hepher, Siva Govindasamy; Editing by Jeremy Laurence)

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