China's ARJ21 regional jet is unlikely to receive Chinese certification this year as planned, but it has made progress in getting international certification.

The US FAA's shadow certification programme for the Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China's (Comac) ARJ21 regional jet is due to start next week, says a Comac official in Shanghai.

This means the FAA is going to assess the Civil Aviation Administration of China's (CAAC) ability to technically assess the ARJ21.

If the CAAC passes the shadow certification programme, Comac can then apply to get FAA-certification for the aircraft, a critical goal if the aircraft is to be sold overseas.

China has been manufacturing commercial aircraft for decades. But its aircraft have only been exported to developing nations because China has failed to get FAA or EASA certification.

Comac has three ARJ21s in its flight test programme and the fourth aircraft is due to join at the end of January, says the Comac official.

The official was unable to say how many flight hours the programme has achieved.

Comac's flight test programme is mostly at the National Flight Test Centre in Xian but there have been cold weather flight tests in China's Inner Mongolia province, says the official.

Industry sources in China say Comac's ARJ21 flight test programme has only completed about 150 flight hours.

This means the programme is unlikely to achieve Chinese certification this year because it takes around 2,000 flight hours before an aircraft is certified.

China's ARJ21 programme has achieved numerous delays over the years. Original plans when the programme was launched called for entry into service in early 2007.

But the aircraft-maker stretched the fuselage to improve the distance between the emergency exit door and fuselage mounted GE CF34-A engines. It then altered the design again to reduce the aircraft's overall weight. In more recent times, the aircraft-maker has faced challenges with software integration.

There has also been changes on the customer side. Shandong Airlines was originally supposed to be the launch operator, and last year handed that mantle to Kunpeng Airlines. But an official at Sichuan Airlines says that Sichuan Airlines' Chengdu Airlines is to be the launch operator.

Source: Air Transport Intelligence news