Chinese jet passes flight milestone

China's first home-developed regional jet aircraft, the ARJ21, has taken to the air to begin its flight test programme.

The ARJ21 manufacturer, Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China (COMAC), declared the aircraft's hour-long first flight on 28 November as highly successful, reaching altitudes of 9,000 feet. GE Aviation provides the complete propulsion system for the ARJ21, including two fuselage-mounted CF34-10A engines.

COMAC plans to perform a second demonstration flight later this month, followed by engineering flight tests in early 2009. Three additional aircraft will be added to the flight test programme next year to support aircraft certification and entry into service in 2010.

COMAC has already taken orders for more than 200 ARJ21 regional jet aircraft and sees a potential market for 850 aircraft over the next 20 years.

"The ARJ21 first flight is a fantastic accomplishment for COMAC," said David Joyce, president and CEO of GE Aviation. "GE and COMAC have developed a strong relationship in recent years, and our technical collaboration on the ARJ21 has been invaluable."

The ARJ21 will seat 70 to 90 passengers, and is designed for Chinese and export markets. It combines Chinese intellectual property with GE engines, and airborne systems from leading European and North American companies. COMAC selected GE's CF34-10A engine in 2002. Since then, GE and COMAC collaborated closely during the aircraft's detailed design and the aircraft/engine integration phases.

China is seeing a dramatic expansion in aviation, driven by economic growth. There are currently 50 new airports scheduled for construction within China over the next five years to meet the higher demand.

As a result, feeder and point-to-point traffic could grow 12 per cent annually over the next 20 years. The ARJ21 is being designed to meet China's diverse environment, specifically the hot temperature and high altitude conditions on many routes in Western China.

GE Aviation is the China airline industry's largest engine supplier. It says the CF34-10A technology is ideally suited to the ARJ21, with thrust to meet performance requirements, and lower-cost, highly-reliable operation.

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