At the Hong Kong air show, China's leading commercial aircraft maker's stall was flanked by the elaborate displays of the two global giants of the commercial aviation business, Boeing and Airbus. But China Aviation Industry Corporation 1 (AVIC 1) still drew a steady stream of visitors curious to take a look at a mock-up of the ARJ21, a regional jetliner it has designed and is making for the domestic and international markets.
China's hopes of an internationally competitive aerospace industry ride on the wings of the new aircraft's success. The ARJ21 has yet to go on its maiden test flight, due in March next year. The mock-up at the Asian Aerospace show in Hong Kong was only of the cockpit and part of the fuselage.
Though it has just 90 seats, in China its debut is as keenly anticipated as the Airbus A380 or the Boeing Dreamliner. The first Chinese-designed, Chinese-made jet is to seek US certification to grab part of the fast-growing global market for regional jetliners.
"The ARJ21 will be fast, cover long distances and have between 50 and 110 seats. It will fill a gap in the current regional jet market," AVIC 1 commercial aircraft division vice president Chen Jin, told industry representatives in a presentation on Wednesday 5 September.
A recent industry forecast by the Canadian aircraft maker Bombardier estimated that over the next 20 years, an additional 11,200 aircraft would be required in the 20- to 149-seat segment. The Chinese market would account for 15 per cent of global deliveries, or 1,660 aircraft. World demand is projected to be greatest for 100- to 149-seat aircraft, making up 5,900 of the total.
The first ARJ21 will roll off the assembly line in October 2009. It will have 90 seats, and a standard range of 2,225 km or 1,380 miles. An extended range version will be able to fly 3,700 km. It will be the first commercial passenger jet aircraft fully designed in China
The first delivery will be to Shandong Airlines, which has placed an order for 10 planes. Other firm customers are Shanghai Airlines and Shenzhen Financial Leasing. So far, there are orders and expressions of interest for more than 60 aircraft.