First Chinese RJ Revenue Flight


China’s first regional jet made its first revenue flight on Tuesday but it seems unlikely the aircraft will find any customers outside the country’s sphere of influence. The ARJ21-700 operated by Chengdu Airlines took 70 passengers from Chengdu to Shanghai. “The first flight of the ARJ21 marks the beginning of commercial, or passenger, operations for the ARJ21 and signifies the first time a domestically made regional jet has been used by a Chinese airline,” said Jin Zhuanglong, chairman of the Commercial Aircraft Corp. of China. ARJ21 stands for Asian Regional Jet for the 21st Century but it’s more like an incremental upgrade of a 1960s North American design.

The plane is essentially an MD-80 with Rockwell Collins avionics and GE CF34 turbofans, the same engines that have been powering Bombardier’s regional jets for more than 20 years. China still calls it a completely indigenous design but it also had help from Antonov in the design. Even though it had the template and the Western technology, it took the COMAC 14 years to bring the airplane to market. COMAC claims 302 orders including five airplanes to GE Capital Aircraft Services, a sister company to GE’s engine business.