China Aviation Industry I (AVIC I) is stepping up work on its government-backed ARJ21 (Advanced Regional Jet) programme and says it is in talks with foreign vendors for engines, avionics and systems.

Project engineers say work has progressed from feasibility to the pre-development phase and the initial 79-seat version is due to fly in late-2005. Entry into service would occur about a year later. A stretched, 99-seat version of the aircraft is also envisaged.

The rear-engined, T-tail design of the ARJ21, which also has a five-abreast passenger cabin, resembles the Boeing 717, a development of the MD-80 produced under licence in China for several years.

Engines under consideration for the aircraft are the General Electric CF34 turbofan and Rolls-Royce BR710. The engineers say the aircraft will be equipped with a conventional, rather than fly-by-wire, flight control system. AVIC I subsidiary companies are in talks to form an industrial consortium to develop, produce and market the aircraft.

Source: Flight International