China Aviation Industry Corporation (AVIC I) aims to freeze the design of its 85-seat ARJ21-700 regional jet this month. The move comes as the manufacturer starts to gauge interest in a stretched 105-seat ARJ21-900.

First metal was cut in December, which puts the programme on course to fly the first of three prototypes in 2006, says vice-president Tao Zhihui. An 18-month flight-test programme is planned, leading to certification by the Civil Aviation Administration of China in October 2007.

Risk-sharing partners on the regional jet programme include General Electric, supplying the CF34-10A engines; Rockwell Collins, providing ProLine 21 avionics; and Hamilton Sundstrand, furnishing the electrical system and auxiliary power unit.

AVIC I has 35 launch orders for the aircraft from Shandong Airlines, Shanghai Airlines and Shenzhen Financial Leasing, and is aiming to secure at least 10 more orders this year. The manufacturer is keen to win international orders for the aircraft and displayed a mock-up of the aircraft at the Asian Aerospace show in Singapore in late February. AVICI believes the hot-and-high performance of the aircraft will appeal to operators in the Asia-Pacific region.

Source: Flight International