COMAC jointly delivers the ARJ21 aircraft to three Chinese state-owned airlines

China Southern Airlines, China Eastern Airlines and Air China ordered 35 regional jet units each as a way to support the Chinese airframer
China's three largest airlines receive their first ARJ21 aircraft: state support (COMAC)

COMAC held a special ceremony on Saturday to mark the delivery of three ARJ21 jets to China Southern Airlines, China Eastern Airlines and Air China, the largest in the country.

These are the first 35-unit planes ordered by each of the state-owned airlines, and a way to support the Chinese aerospace industry, still in its its first steps in the commercial aviation market.

According to COMAC, the three companies will receive another three ARJ21s during 2020, all configured with 90 seats. With the state-owned companies, the passenger aircraft now has five customers, all from China.

“The simultaneous delivery of the three aircraft marks the official entry of ARJ21 aircraft into the fleets of international mainstream airlines,” said COMAC in its statement, adding that “ARJ21 aircraft will play a positive role in promoting the operation of regional aircraft.”

A not so original plane

The ARJ21-700 is the first passenger jet designed and manufactured in China. It is part of an old agreement with McDonnell Douglas (now Boeing) signed in the 1980s, which allowed the Chinese to produce the DC-9 in their country.

As the American model was already out of date, COMAC improved the project, adding more efficient engines, modern avionics, a more comfortable passenger cabin, winglets and other improvements.

Chengdu Airlines is the largest operator of the ARJ21, with 19 aircraft (Danny Yu)

With the experience accumulated in the ARJ21, COMAC can then move to the C919, a twin-engine jet with greater capacity and efficiency and which is considered a future competitor for the A320 and 737.

COMAC claims to have 378 orders for ARJ21, the absolute majority of Chinese companies, but lessor GECAS also reached an agreement for the model.

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