FARNBOROUGH: ARJ21 first delivery pushed to end 2013

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Comac has confirmed that the first delivery of its ARJ21 regional jet has been pushed back by around two years to end-2013, a development that could have a knock-on impact on the C919 narrowbody programme.

The delivery of the ARJ21 was initially scheduled for 2007, but that was pushed to end-2011 as the engineers encountered several problems in the development of the aircraft.

However, that second deadline slipped as well due to the problems that cropped up during the certification of the aircraft.

Comac's chief financial officer Tian Min says at the Farnborough Airshow that the airframer is targeting an end-2013 delivery to launch customer Chengdu Airlines. This is the first time that the airframer has given a definitive target date since the 2011 deadline slipped.

The company expects to receive certification from both the US FAA and the Civil Aviation Administration of China next year, says Tian. The CAAC is the lead agency in this process, while the FAA is conducting a shadow certification of the aircraft

"The programme is now undergoing certification tests and flights. There have been some problems but that's part of the process and progress is good. There are no serious issues," adds Tian.

Delays in the ARJ21 programme will have an impact on Comac's C919 narrowbody aircraft programme, in which the aircraft is scheduled to have its first flight in 2014 and delivery planned for 2016 - although both are widely expected to slip.

This is because the company's limited resources will focus on getting the regional jet, a project that started 10 years ago, out of the hanger and to the customers.

While both aircraft programmes have several western suppliers, they rely on a limited pool of domestic design, development and engineering capability that has focused on military aircraft programmes for many years.

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

"The experience we get from the ARJ21 will contribute and help us in the C919," says Tian when asked if the narrowbody programme will be affected.