Xi’an Aircraft Industries delivered the first sets of ARJ21-700 wings and main fuselage sections for final assembly to Shanghai Aircraft Company early last month, heralding the start of final assembly of the 90-seat jet design’s first prototype. The milestone deliveries nearly coincided with the opening of an office by the FAA in Shanghai to support Chinese authorities’ efforts to meet international certification standards.
For their part, U.S. companies hope the new FAA office helps smooth the process of integrating their products into the finished design. Some 40 percent of the ARJ21’s components will come from outside China, including its GE CF34-10A turbofans and Rockwell Collins Pro Line avionics. Seven separate Chinese factories participate in production, including nose section builder Chengdu Aircraft and engine pylon/vertical stabilizer contractor Shenyang Aircraft.
The ARJ21 program partners–a consortium led by government-controlled AVIC I Commercial Aircraft (ACAC)– hope to gain FAA certification at the same time the 90-seat jet wins Chinese approval, now scheduled for the third quarter of 2009. ACAC plans to roll out the airplane by the end of year, fly it for the first time next March and deliver the first production example to launch customer Shandong Airlines in September 2009.
Still holding firm orders for 35 airplanes, ACAC hasn’t landed a new ARJ21 customer since September 2003, when it announced the launch orders for 10 from Shandong Airlines, five from Shanghai Airlines and 20 from Shenzhen Finance Leasing Co. Xiamen Airlines has since signed an MOU for six ARJ21-700s but hasn’t yet committed to placing an order.