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COMAC ARJ21 during a runway test. (Photo: COMAC)

COMAC ARJ21 (Advanced Regional Jet)

The COMAC ARJ21 ('Advanced Regional Jet for the 21st Century') is a regional airliner developed and built in China.

The development of the ARJ21 started in March 2002 by the state-owned ACAC consortium, which after a reorganisation in 2009 became part of COMAC. The first flight was initially planned to happen in 2005 and entry into service one and a half year later. However, the project suffered severe delays. The first prototype was rolled out of the factory on 21 December 2007 and the first flight took place on 28 November 2008 at Shanghai's Dachang Airfield. At that time the plan was to deliver the first aircraft to Chengdu airlines in late 2010, but it lasted seven years after the first flight to get the aircraft certified.

The ARJ21-700 received its Chinese Type Certificate on 30 December 2014. The intention is to acquire FAA and EASA certification as well, which is necessary for export orders. The Chinese investor Puren Group signed an order for seven ARJ21s (and seven C919s) for its projected start-up airline Puren Airlines, which is to be based at Lübeck Airport in Germany. As part of its plans Puren Group acquired the airport in 2014, but it can operate the ARJ-21 from here only if the ARJ21 acquires EASA certification.

When the engineers designed the ARJ21, they had the western part of China in mind. This part of the country is far less densely populated than the east and therefore seems to be a good market for regional jets. The region is also at an altitude much above sea-level, which was an important point for the specifications of the aircraft.

COMAC ARJ21 The Chinese aircraft builders have been accused of copying the McDonnell Douglas MD-80 because the ARJ-21 looks much like a MD-80 derivative. Indeed, the tooling for the MD-80 license production was used. The Chinese said that the ARJ 21 was supposed to be a 'practice plane' to gather experience before starting a completely new design. Still, many things are different.

The design incorporates a T-tail and a supercritical wing with 25 degrees sweepback and integrated winglets, which has been designed by the Antonov Design Bureau in Ukraine. A lot of western systems are used. The aircraft is powered by two General Electric CF34-10A turbofans and uses systems from suppliers including Honeywell, Rockwell Collins, Hamilton Sundstrand and Liebherr. The two engines are mounted at the rear of the fuselage. The aircraft is equipped with a fly-by-wire flight control system. Passengers sit five-abreast, like in the MD-80.

COMAC wants to develop several versions. The baseline model is the ARJ21-700 which seats 70 to 95 passengers. The ARJ21-900 is a stretched version seating 95 to 105 passengers. The ARJ21F is a cargo version of the ARJ 21-700 with a maximum payload of 10,150 kg and the ARJ21B is a corporate jet version which will be developed together with Fokker Services in The Netherlands.

COMAC claims to have commitments for over 400 aircraft. Until mid 2015 there were still no aircraft delivered to airlines.


The COMAC ARJ21. (Photo: COMAC)


Wingspan: 27.28 m (89 ft 6 in)
Length: 33.46 m (109 ft 9 in)
Height: 8.44 m (27 ft 8 in)

Empty weight: 24,955 kg (55,016 lb)
Max. take-off weight:
43,500 kg (95,900 lb)

Accommodation: 78-90 passengers
Range: 3,700 km (2,000 nm)
Cruise speed: 828 km/h (447 kts)

Engines: two
General Electric CF34-10A
(17,057 lb - 75.8 kN)


ARJ21     COMAC C919

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