Shanghai, China: China's aviation programme crossed a milestone when its first fully home grown commercial aircraft, the ARJ-21 Xiangfeng, or "Flying Phoenix," rolled off the production line on Friday.
In a nationally televised ceremony, the Flying Phoenix was towed into a hangar at the Shanghai Aircraft Manufacturing Factory.
"Today, China's aviation industry has turned over a new leaf," Lin Zuoming, general manager of China Aviation Industry Corp. I, or AVIC I, said in comments carried on the news channel of China Central Television.
The maiden flight for the ARJ-21 is planned for March. The aircraft will carry up to 90 passengers and have a flight range of 2,300 miles, according to Xinhua.
AVIC I intend to begin deliveries to customers in the third quarter of 2009, it said.
Original plans had visualised the jet to be ready by late 2005, but design problems forced a delay. The project aims to make state-owned AVIC I a competitor to other makers of smaller passenger jets, such as Canada's Bombardier Inc. and Brazil's Embraer SA.
The project also intends to lay the groundwork for the development of a commercial jet twice the size of the ARJ-21. AVIC I says the ARJ-21 is expected to grab up to 60 per cent of the domestic market for mid-size regional airliners over the next 20 years.
China will need about 900 mid-sized regional jets over the next two decades, according to company estimates.