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COMAC’s ARJ21 finally enters service

Chengdu Airlines has accepted the first two COMAC ARJ21 jets into service. It’s two down and 28 to go for the airline.

COMAC worked on the ARJ21 for 12 years, and the programme has seen many delays and frustrations. The aircraft was meant to make a maiden flight in 2005, but that was delayed for three years. A testing schedule seemed to put the aircraft on schedule for delivery in 2010 instead.

Then problems emerged with the aircraft’s wing during static testing. The Civil Aviation Administration of China imposed strict limits to the aircraft during the flight test programme.

Soon there were reported to be problems with everything from de-icing to the avionics on the aircraft. Critical for the programme was to acquire Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) certification. After all, COMAC hopes the ARJ21 will mark China’s debut into the world aviation market. The ARJ21 achieved a shadow type certification in 2012.

Boeing estimates that China will need 6,000 new aircraft over the next 20 years. COMAC hopes to capture some of the market, but it also has plans outside China. British Airways and Ryanair have both already signed memorandums of understanding with COMAC for new aircraft.

Plans are also in the works for closer relations with Russia to construct a wide-body jet. At the moment the two countries are negotiating the terms of the partnership. Before that ambitious project is initiated COMAC must first launch the C919, which is due to enter service in 2017. A first flight is scheduled for next year, and COMAC will be hoping to avoid the delays that dogged the ARJ21.

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