High flier:

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - FRONT PAGE - By WANG WEN in Shang­hai wang­wen@chi­nadaily.com.cn

The first two na­tion­ally made re­gional ARJ21-700 air­craft, which are in­tended for com­mer­cial ser­vice, roll off the as­sem­bly line in Shang­hai on Mon­day.

China’s first do­mes­tic re­gional jet­liner will go into com­mer­cial op­er­a­tion in 2015, with the first two ARJ21-700 air­craft in­tended for com­mer­cial ser­vice rolling off the as­sem­bly line on Mon­day.

The du­al­tur­bo­fan planes will be de­liv­ered to Chengdu Air­lines Co Ltd by the end of 2014, as­sum­ing the air­wor­thi­ness cer­ti­fi­ca­tion process goes smoothly.

“Chengdu Air­lines will put the planes into ser­vice in early 2015,” said Wang Shenghua, a su­per­vi­sor at the air­lines.

The jets have a two-class con­fig­u­ra­tion, with eight seats in busi­ness class and 70 in econ­omy class.

Com­mer­cial Air­craft Corp of China Ltd pre­vi­ously as­sem­bled four ARJ21-700 jets for test­ing.

Another three planes for com­mer­cial op­er­a­tion will be as­sem­bled next year, ac­cord­ing to the man­u­fac­turer’s plan.

How­ever, the jet­liner still lacks cer­ti­fi­ca­tion five years af­ter hav­ing made its maiden test flight.

“We ex­pect to get the air­wor­thi­ness cer­tifi­cate from Chi­nese au­thor­i­ties in 2014,” said Zheng Wen, deputy di­rec­tor of the ARJ21- 700 pro­gram.

Zheng said the jet­liner has al­ready passed about 70 per­cent of the cer­ti­fi­ca­tion in­spec­tion. The four test air­craft have com­pleted more than 2,200 trial flights last­ing a to­tal of 4,200 hours.

The United States Fed­eral Avi­a­tion Ad­min­is­tra­tion is also in­volved in the cer­ti­fi­ca­tion process, and the plane has passed about half the items on the FAA’s list.

But some dif­fi­cult items, such as ex­treme weather test­ing, are still pend­ing. Those tests lie ahead in 2014.

It’s the tough­est time for the ARJ21 now, said Wu Xing­shi, a mem­ber of the State Coun­cil’s large pas­sen­ger air­craft pro­gram ex­pert ad­vi­sory com­mit­tee.

Lack of work­ing ex­pe­ri­ence among staff is the big­gest chal­lenge, Wu said.

The av­er­age age of staff mem­bers at the Shang­hai Air­craft De­sign and Re­search In­sti­tu­tion, the main re­search sub­sidiary of CO­MAC, is only 33 years.

“It is a young team, but they do not have another al­ter­na­tive, ex­cept for work­ing stepby-step,” Wu added.

China’s re­gional jet mar­ket is promis­ing, as air traf­fic de­mand is grow­ing faster than the re­gional avi­a­tion fleet.

Planes with fewer than 100 seats only ac­count for 8 per­cent of China’s civil avi­a­tion fleet. Gov­ern­ments at var­i­ous lev­els have launched poli­cies, in­clud­ing di­rect sub­si­dies for air­lines and air­port con­struc­tion, to en­cour­age re­gional avi­a­tion.

China’s re­gional avi­a­tion mar­ket will ex­pe­ri­ence fast growth in the next 20 years, the Avi­a­tion In­dus­try Corp of China has fore­cast.

Em­braer SA, the world’s largest re­gional jet man­u­fac­turer, said that the Chi­nese mar­ket will need 1,005 new re­gional jet­lin­ers with ca­pac­i­ties of 61 to 120 seats by 2031.

CO­MAC al­ready has 252 ARJ21-700 or­ders, pri­mar­ily from do­mes­tic car­ri­ers.

WANG WEN / CHINA DAILY

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