Third ARJ21 Operator Prepares for Service with Comac Jet

 - March 13, 2019, 11:08 AM
The first of up to 20 Urumqi Air Comac ARJ-21s takes off on a test flight. (Photo: Comac)

Chinese low-cost carrier Urumqi Air will take delivery of its first ARJ21-700 in some six months, according to a source working closely with Comac who spoke with AIN on condition of anonymity. Based at Urumqi Diwopu Airport in China’s northwest, the airline will become the third operator of the type, after Chengdu Airlines and newly established Genghis Khan Airlines.

Urumqi Air currently operates a fleet of 17 aircraft, consisting of 16 Boeing 737-800 jets and one Embraer 190. According to a Comac press release, the airline’s original plan called for delivery of two ARJ21-700 regional jets in 2018 followed by three in 2019 after signing a letter of intent for the purchase of 20 of the type during last year’s Farnborough Airshow.

Start-up Genghis Khan took delivery of its first ARJ21-700 on February 22. Based in Inner Mongolia, the airline shelved initial plans to operate a fleet of Bombardier CRJ900s after inking an agreement for 50 ARJ21s (25 firm orders and 25 options) in August 2018. Genghis Khan expects to launch commercial operations by the end of March from its base at Hohhot Baita International Airport. Additional plans call for a fleet of 25 jets to operate to 40 destinations within five years.

Meanwhile, launch customer Chengdu Airlines took delivery of its 11th ARJ21 on January 25. The airline currently operates a fleet of 43 jets including 32 Airbus A320 family models on a number of domestic and regional routes. Chengdu Airlines and Genghis Khan will work together in developing their ARJ21 fleets under a cooperative framework agreement, which include operational support, information sharing, and business investments.

All three operators will eventually benefit from a complete redesign of the flight deck on all new ARJ21s as engineers continue to make incremental improvements. The new layout features a better-organized grouping of switches, buttons, instruments, and displays to simplify workload and increase situational awareness. Designers expect the new layout, successfully tested on the ARJ21’s flight simulator, to significantly reduce the amount of pilot training required on the type.

In anticipation of receiving more aircraft orders, Comac is preparing to train its first batch of new pilots for the ARJ21. So far, Chengdu has focused on training type-rated pilots with experience flying aircraft such as the Airbus A320 and the Boeing 737.