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China’s Comac finishes first regional airliner

May 21, 2014, Shanghai, China - A state-owned aircraft maker said Wednesday it is ready to deliver China's first homegrown regional airliner and should complete a bigger plane in 2018.


May 21, 2014
By The Associated Press

The first two of the ARJ21-700 regional jets have been completed for a
Chinese carrier, Chengdu Airlines, and are coming to the end of the
certification process, according to Commercial Aircraft Corporation of
China Ltd. The company said it has 252 orders.

 

China launched the ARJ21 project in 2002
in an attempt to break into the Western-dominated aircraft market. The
plane was promised for 2007 but delivery was pushed back due to
technical problems.

 

China is expected to become one of the
world's biggest aircraft markets over the next two decades. Boeing Co.
forecasts total demand at 5,580 planes worth a total of $780 billion.

 

The ARJ21-700 can seat 78
to 90 passengers depending on its configuration, with a range of 2,225
to 3,700 kilometres (1,300 miles to 2,300 miles). Comac said it
successfully completed test flights in North America in March and April
and has flown 13,000 kilometres (8,000 miles).

 

The company is targeting China's domestic market and flights to Southeast Asia.

 

"We first want to develop our business in
China and then gradually we will go to the international market," Comac
executive Tian Min told reporters at Comac's assembly and manufacturing
centre in Shanghai.

 

Comac's larger C919 is a single-aisle jet
meant to compete with Boeing and Airbus Industrie. It can seat up to
168 passengers and has a planned range of 4,000 to 5,100 kilometres
(2,500 to 3,200 miles).

 

The C919 is an official
initiative "for China to re-capture the value in aircraft manufacturing
that currently goes offshore to Airbus and Boeing," said industry
analyst Will Horton of CAPA Centre for Aviation. "With such a large
objective, accomplishments will come gradually."

 

The company has received 400 orders from
16 customers, including aircraft leasing company GE Capital Aviation
Services. Low cost carrier Ryanair and British airlines have signed
memorandums of understanding about their intention to purchase planes,
Tian said.

 

He wouldn't disclose price but said developers were focused on controlling costs.

 

Most orders have come from China's state-owned airline industry under government instructions to support the program.

 

"Global aviation remains pessimistic on the C919, given the ARJ21 delays," said Horton.

 

On May 15, the first front fuselage of a
C919 was delivered by a supplier to Comac, Tian said. He said the plane
will be assembled in the second half of 2014, its maiden flight is due
at the end of 2015 and the first delivery to a customer is slated for
2018.

 

Longer term, Comac is co-operating with
Russia to build a next-generation wide-body plane. The two sides signed a
memorandum of understanding on Tuesday during Russian President
Vladimir Putin's visit to China. Tian said Comac is working on a
feasibility study with Russia.

 

From its beginning in 2008, Comac has
focused on developing the two passenger planes. It has grown from 3,800
employees to 8,300.

 

Earlier news reports said the
C919 maiden flight was due in 2014, with delivery in 2016. Tian said
those reports were wrong, and Comac always planned for its maiden flight
to be 90 months from the project launch.