AIRSHOW CHINA: ARJ21 first delivery slips further

Zhuhai
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Chinese airframer Comac has again pushed back the delivery schedule of its ARJ21 regional jet, this time by "one to two years".

Speaking to Flightglobal Pro at Airshow China, the programme's chief designer Chen Yong says the airframer is now targeting to receive certification from the Civil Aviation Administration of China in the first half of 2013, and to deliver the ARJ21 to launch customer Chengdu Airlines in 2014.

Thereafter, it could take up to two years before the aircraft gets validated by the US Federal Aviation Administration.

The new schedule is a slip from the 2013 delivery target that Comac chief financial officer Tian Min set for the ARJ21 - a project that began 10 years ago - at the Farnborough air show in July.

"Most of the technical issues of the aircraft have been resolved. There have been delays because we don't have experience in certification in terms of methods and infrastructure. So tackling these problems is taking us more time than expected," says Chen.

Comac now has six of the regional jets undergoing both ground and flight tests. The jets have accumulated close to 3,000 flight hours.

The delivery of the ARJ21 was initially scheduled for 2007, but that was pushed to end-2011 as engineers encountered several problems in the development of the aircraft. However, that second deadline slipped as well because of problems that cropped up during aircraft certification.

Chen adds that the ARJ21 will first meet the demand for regional jets in the local market before reaching out to western customers. Comac has so far garnered 252 orders for the type, most of which are from Chinese airlines and leasing companies.

Delays in the ARJ21 are also expected to have a knock-on impact on the C919 programme as Comac's limited resources will focus on getting the regional jet out of the hangar and into the market.

Chen disagrees, however, saying that experience on the ARJ21 will definitely help Comac to run the C919 programme smoothly.

"This is the first time China is building a commercial aircraft, so we're definitely anxious to push it out. But the aim really is to have a safe product," says Chen.

The ARJ21 and the C919 are China's first major commercial aircraft programmes aimed at developing products that can compete in the international market.