China’s Comac delivers first homegrown ARJ-21 jet to Chengdu Airlines
Aircraft has domestic approval but lacks international certification
The ARJ-21 was cleared to fly in China at the end of 2014
China has been one of the biggest buyers of Airbus and Boeing aircraft for many years but, just like in the auto or smartphone industries, the priority is always to develop a homegrown product that can compete internationally.
So it was another milestone last month when state-owned aircraft-maker the Commercial Aircraft Corp of China (Comac) delivered the first ARJ-21, a homegrown jet, to domestic low-cost carrier Chengdu Airlines.
It’s a major advance for China’s domestic jet industry which the government is keen to expand to ultimately rival Boeing and Airbus, and the 80-seater is seen longer term as competing with Brazil’s Embraer, Japan’s Mitsubishi and Canada’s Bombardier.
China is also developing a narrow-body jet, the C-919, to compete with the Airbus A320 and Boeing.
After years of delay because of technical issues, the ARJ-21 was cleared to fly in the domestic market by civil aviation regulators Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) at the end of 2014, but it has not been given a certification by the US Federal Aviation Administration, which will limit its access to overseas markets as only a few markets recognise the CAAC certification.
Comac has received 350 orders for the ARJ-21, mostly from domestic airlines and leasing companies. In September, Comac said it had signed a preliminary deal with ICBC Leasing to supply 10 ARJ-21 jets and 10 of its C-919 models to Thai airline City Airways.
There are also possible ramifications for Europe as the certification issue could force Comac to eventually ask the European Aviation Safety Agency to certify the jet rather than wait for the US Federal Aviation Administration.