ANDREW DOYLE & NICHOLAS IONIDES / SINGAPORE
Chinese manufacturers grouped under ACAC umbrella work towards government-financed first flight in 2006
China Aviation Industry Corporation (AVIC) I has set up a dedicated company to manage development of the proposed ARJ21 79 to 99-seat regional jet family and aims to narrow the engine choice to two candidates by the time of the Zhuhai air show in early November.
Meanwhile, Ukrainian design bureau Antonov is in discussions with AVIC I on taking responsibility for the design and production of the ARJ21's fuselage.
The new AVIC I Commercial Aircraft Company (ACAC) groups together teams from AVIC I companies Xian Aircraft Industrial, Shanghai Aircraft Industrial Group and others, which are working towards an ARJ21 first flight by 2006 and service entry a year later. Its formation is supported by China's central government. Two versions are planned: the baseline 79-seater and a 99-seat stretch.
Competing engines are the General Electric CF34-10A, Pratt & Whitney Canada PW800, Rolls-Royce BR710 and Snecma SM146.
ACAC is expected to be formally unveiled at the Zhuhai show in southern China, where a full-size cabin mock-up will be displayed, a Chinese manufacturing source says.
Company officials say Tang Xiaoping, previously AVIC I's assistant president, has been appointed ACAC president and vice-chairman while AVIC I executive vice-president Yang Yuzhong will also act as ACAC chairman.
State-run media said recently that the government had promised to provide 5 billion yuan ($600 million) in "seed funding" for the project, considered a priority for China's aerospace manufacturing sector, which employs tens of thousands of people. It is understood up to 2 billion yuan is already available to ACAC.
The project is primarily based in Shanghai, where design and assembly will take place. Drawings show the ARJ21 to be a rear-engined, T-tail aircraft, similar to the Boeing MD-80/90, some of which were assembled in China.
China's other state-owned aerospace giant, AVIC II, has separately been working on a regional jet programme and has selected Embraer as its partner. The tie-up has government approval but contracts have yet to be finalised. If the venture goes ahead the 50-seat ERJ-145 will be built under licence at Harbin.
Source: Flight International