China has cut the first metal for its indigenously developed ARJ21 large regional jet, which it hopes to fly in 2006 and deliver to its launch customer late in 2007.

Programme company AVIC I Commercial Aircraft (ACAC), a subsidiary of China Aviation Industry Corporation I, says manufacturing work began on 20 December at its plants in Chengdu, Shanghai, Shenyang and Xian. The baseline ARJ21 will seat 78-85 passengers, and a stretched variant is planned.

Final assembly will be carried out at Shanghai Aviation Industrial Group facilities, with the first flight scheduled for 2006. Entry into service is planned for late 2007. Although Chinese media say deliveries are due for 2008, ACAC vice-president Tao Zhi Hui denies this.

Three launch customers hold orders for 35 ARJ21s: Shandong Airlines (10) Shanghai Airlines (five), and Shenzhen Financial Leasing (20).

Source: Flight International