Although delays to new aircraft programmes are not unexpected, an eight-year hiatus is at the extreme end of the range. That is where Chinese airframer Comac finds itself with the ARJ21 regional jet.

Work began on the country’s first indigenously designed and produced commercial aircraft way back in 2002, with service entry for the twinjet originally envisaged in the 2007 timeframe.

But then deadlines slipped… and slipped… and slipped some more.

An inexperienced Comac found the multiple processes required to bring an aircraft to the market harder than it first thought.

Certification requirements posed a further challenge, with both the airframer and the country’s regulator, the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC), forced to learn as they went along.

But to castigate Comac for the tardiness of its ARJ21 is to rather miss the point.

The experience that both the company and the CAAC have gained through the exercise is already being seen on the crucial C919 narrowbody. That ­design will compete directly with the Airbus A320 and Boeing 737, and so a smooth development is vital.

So, while an eight-year delay is undesirable, it may pay off in the long run. After all, the Chinese consider eight to be a lucky number.

Source: Flight International