In a bold move, local Chinese industry has produced the largely-indigenous ARJ21 ("Advanced Regional Jet 21") "twin" for the potentially lucrative regional jet market. The type, designed by AVIC and produced under the COMAC consortium brand label, utilizes American engines and avionics while all other facets of the aircraft are of local design, development, and supply. The ARJ21 was introduced into formal operating service with Chengdu Airliners on June 28th, 2016 (the first unit was delivered in November of 2015) though the project has been ongoing since 2002. Production has been ongoing since 2007. A first-flight was recorded on November 28th, 2008.
The COMAC consortium includes such notable Chinese aero-industry players as Chengdu, Xian, Shenyang, and the Shanghai Aircraft Company. Major foreign participants in the program are General Electric (providing the turbofan engines) and Rockwell Collins (supplying the avionics set).
The aircraft has a conventional arrangement: the flightdeck is positioned aft of a shallow, rounded nosecone with good views of the action ahead. The pilots are seated side-by-side in the usual way. The fuselage is tubular and tapers at the extreme rear where a single-finned tail unit is set. The horizontal planes are all-moving surfaces and mounted high on the fin, completing the Multhop "T-style" tail unit. The wing mainplanes are set low against the sides of the fuselage at midships. Each wing, featuring sweepback along the leading edges, is capped with winglets. The engine nacelles are each positioned along wingstubs at the aft-section of the fuselage to reduce operating noise for the passengers. Ground-running is aided by a tricycle undercarriage that sees all three legs double-wheeled.
Four major variants of the ARJ21 currently exist or have been proposed: the ARJ21-700, ARJ21-900, ARJ21F, and ARJ21B. The -700 model seats between 70 and 95 passengers while the -900 model, adding length to its fuselage, can carry as many as 105 passengers. The ARJ21F is a proposed "freighter" version intended to haul up to 23,000lb of cargo. The ARJ21B, or "COMAC Business Jet" (CBJ), is a business jet (BizJet) market model being developed as a demonstrator for marketing purposes in 2020. It is mainly targeting domestic parties with the export market as secondary.
The ARJ21-700 has 1- or 2-class seating for its passengers. Overall length is 109.8 feet with a wingspan of 89.5 feet and a height of 27.7 feet. Empty weight is 55,015lb against an MTOW of up to 96,000lb depending on overall load. Power is from 2 x General Electric CF34-10A turbofan engines of 17,057lb of thrust providing the aircraft with a maximum speed of 540 miles-per-hour, a cruising speed near 514 mph, a service ceiling up to 39,000 feet, and a range out to 2,300 miles. The operating crew numbers two.
The -900 differs in its number of supported passengers (also through 1- or 2-class seating arrangements) and is 119.2 feet long. This affects weights (both empty and MTOW are increased to 57,920lb and 104,020lb, respectively. All other performance figures are identical.
The ARJ21 project has proved daunting to local Chinese industry which, in turn, has led to a series of delays. Series introduction was set for 2010 but this was consistently pushed back as new technological hurdles arose (leading to the aforementioned June 2016 service date being official).
November 28th, 2008 - The ARJ21 regional jet prototype has achieved its first flight.
January 2014 - It was reported that the ARJ21 has completed its requisite severe cold test flight.
February 2014 - The ARJ21 has completed a one-night flight to achieve authority certification.
January 2015 - The ARJ21-700 has received its Chapter 25 type certificate from Chinese aviation authorities. The launch customer is set to become Chengdu Airlines when it receives its first aircraft sometime later this spring.
June 2016 - The ARJ21 (ARJ21-700) formally entered operational service with local Chinese carrier Chengdu Airlines.
July 2016 - It was announced that the COMAC ARJ21 series aircraft had officially entered service with Chengdu Airlines on June 28th. The first-flight ranged from Chengdu to Shanghai.
To date (September 2016), confirmed orders for the ARJ21 total 302 with an option for twenty more aircraft. Operators range from China and Indonesia to Myanmar and the United States (GECAS). All are of the ARJ21-700 model product.
September 2017 - COMAC confirmed plans to begin serial production of its ARJ21 series passenger hauler despite ongoing reliability issues with the design. Two ARJ21 aircraft have begun limited service with an additional five expected before year's end.
March 2018 - The ARJ21 has completed crosswind validation trials.
July 2018 - The ARJ21 currently has firm orders for 127 aircraft and an additional 399 through letters-of-intent.
August 2018 - The ARJ21 has completed its high temperature testing phase.
October 2018 - The ARJ21 is expected to see first-deliveries begin before the end of 2018, this to air carrier Genghis Khan.
February 2019 - A second assembly is planned by COMAC in 2019 to help with ongoing production requirements for the regional jet. Some twenty-four customers have ordered 528 of the aircraft type thus far.
May 2019 - COMAC is advancing plans to development and test the COMAC Business Jet (CBJ) version of its ARJ21 to market mainly to local Chinese parties. The demonstrator is scheduled to begin active marketing in 2020. Performance estimates include a cruising speed near 600 miles-per-hour and a range out to 3,400 miles.