China’s AVIC I Commercial Aircraft (ACAC) continues its march toward a 2008 introduction of the 85-seat ARJ21-700, finishing more or less on schedule some 90 percent of the aircraft’s structural design and 50 percent of its systems design by the end of last year. During Airshow China 2004, held in Zhuhai from November 1 to 7 (see December, page 86), the consortium also signed new contracts with components suppliers and unveiled plans for business jet and freighter variants.
Meanwhile, ARJ21 wing designer Antonov has completed wind-tunnel tests on several scaled-down models at its facility in Kiev and those of Russia’s TsAGI, the Central Flight Test and Research Institute in the Zhukovsky region of Moscow. On the eve of Airshow China 2004, Antonov declared that it finished the first part of the wind-tunnel testing and has frozen the ARJ21’s wing configuration. The Ukrainians have also issued recommendations on empennage structure improvements and received an additional wind-tunnel test contract.
At the show Hamilton Sundstrand inked deals with ACAC to supply APUs for the ARJ21, as well as with Shaanxi Aircraft on APUs for Chinese versions of the Antonov An-12 regional turboprop known as the Y8F. The show also saw Canada’s CAE sign a deal to develop an ARJ21 full-motion flight simulator. Under the contract with ACAC, CAE will install one unit in Shanghai in 2008, to help Shandong and Shanghai Airlines crews qualify for the type. Overall, Western suppliers expect $6 billion in business over the next 20 years if the program generates expected sales of 500 airplanes. Of that, General Electric would get about $3.7 billion from sales of CF34-10A engines and their nacelles.
The Chinese government hopes that the domestic market will absorb 350 passenger-carrying ARJ21s, along with 90 freighter and quick-conversion variants.
Still under study and not yet on offer, the ARJ21-700B business jet and -700F freighter would use the same airframe as the baseline 70-seat ARJ21-700. The “F” version would be able to transport five LD7 containers, while the “B” version would feature additional fuel tanks and an executive interior for up to 20 travelers. A stretched version of the standard ARJ21 known as the ARJ21-900 would seat 105 passengers.
ACAC claims the ARJ21 will meet the demanding “hot and high” requirements of Western Chinese carriers, while fulfilling the economic needs of airlines based in the rest of the country. ACAC is using Germu Airport in Qinqhai province as the benchmark for the ARJ21’s design specifications.
Design targets include optimization for stage lengths between 300 and 1,200 nm, a range that accounts for 70 percent of all existing routes within mainland China. ACAC market analyses show that airlines operate between 812 city pairs–some 86 percent of all Chinese air routes–with fewer than 100 passengers on each flight. Under those conditions, reasons ACAC, the ARJ21 series would prove ideal for the domestic route network and more economical on many routes than the Boeing 737-size airplanes that now predominate.