Latest ARJ21 Order Boosts Comac’s Export Prospects

 - January 8, 2021, 3:08 PM
OTT Airlines became the ARJ21's latest operator when it flew its initial commercial service between Shanghai and Beijing last month. Comac hopes a new deal with Everbright Group's leasing arm covering up to 60 ARJ21s will next help it establish a presence in Southeast Asia. (Photo: Comac)

China Aviation Leasing, a subsidiary of state-owned China Everbright Group, inked an agreement with Comac on Friday for the firm order of 30 ARJ21-700 regional jets and options on another 30 worth a total of $2.28 billion at list prices. Comac via its WeChat account said the latest order will boost the development of China's domestic sector and pave the way for entry into Southeast Asia’s emerging markets. Plans call for the two groups to build an overseas base to support jet operations; however, they did not disclose specific terms of the deal or expected delivery schedules.

“Comac and China Aviation Leasing will jointly support the fleet operations of the ARJ21 aircraft and accumulate overseas operating experience by settling into the Southeast Asian market,” Comac said in a press release, adding that partners maintain a special cooperation agreement in place since 2018.

Despite ongoing plans to boost China’s aircraft manufacturing capabilities, the ARJ21 has yet to make strong gains domestically. Rather, Boeing 737s and Airbus A320s serve 90 percent of China’s regional routes. While the world’s two aerospace giants also enjoy a duopoly in Southeast Asia, China has established a presence in the region with its MA60 turboprop. AVIC expects its third Modern Ark member, the MA700, to begin flight testing this year after successfully undergoing static tests last month.

To promote a sustainable trajectory of its aerospace sector, Comac and its partners are accelerating support activities for ARJ21 and C919 operations. Last week, the Chinese airframer opened a customer service training base in the Xiuzhou District, some 56 miles northeast of Shanghai, to support operators in the Yangtze River Delta—a triangle-shaped megalopolis that encompasses Shanghai municipality and the three neighboring provinces of Jiangsu, Zhejiang, and Anhui. Considered one of China’s crown jewels, the region ranks as the most densely populated and most affluent area in the country, accounting for a quarter of the nation’s gross domestic product. 

The new base comes as Comac’s C919 narrowbody enters its final flight-testing and certification phase. China’s regulator issued the airframer type inspection authorization in late November 2020, effectively freezing the jet’s design. Officials aim for a 2021 certification and first deliveries by the end of the year.