Chinese Regional Jet Rolled Out

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The Shanghai Aircraft Manufacturing company (the same firm that will build Cessna's Light Sport Aircraft) rolled out the first ARJ21 "Flying Phoenix" regional jet on Friday. According to United Press International, the aircraft is the first-ever clean sheet airliner design by the Chinese. A 20-seat business variant is planned but the up and down world of regional airline life is where most of the aircraft will end up. The 90-seat aircraft will fly in March and is expected to eventually take 60 percent of the domestic airline market share from Boeing, Airbus and Bombardier after first deliveries start in 2009. A total of 171 orders are claimed by the manufacturer. But while the Chinese claim it as their own, the Flying Phoenix is more like the rising of a defunct American design.

China used much of the tooling left over from McDonnell-Douglas's aborted attempt to build MD-90s in China and the "new" airplane has the same cabin cross section and nose as the DC-9 family. The last of the line, the Boeing 717, was built at the original Douglas Long Beach factory in May of 2006. Although the sheet metal may be Chinese, much of what makes it fly is from other countries, including the GE engines and Rockwell avionics. The Russians designed the wing. The plane has a range of about 2,000 nm and cruises at about 500 knots.