ARJ21 Export Customer Starts Flight Training Campaign

 - March 17, 2023, 9:57 AM
Indonesian low-fare carrier TransNusa is the first ARJ21 operator outside of China. (Photo: Comac)

Comac’s ARJ21-700 regional jet inched closer toward making its overseas debut as Indonesian carrier TransNusa Aviation began a 100-hour flight training campaign this week ahead of the aircraft's anticipated entry into service.

Headquartered in Jakarta, the low-cost carrier (LCC) took delivery of its first ARJ21 last December, effectively becoming the first operator of the type outside of China. TransNusa plans to operate the aircraft, bearing Indonesian registration PK-TJA, on routes between Jakarta, Denpasar, and Yogyakarta. TransNusa has yet to specify an entry-into-service date.

The LCC’s first ARJ21, which seats 95 passengers in an all-economy layout, stems from an order placed in January 2021 for 30 of the type. Comac will stagger deliveries of the remaining jets up to 2026.

China Aircraft Leasing Group (CALC), a subsidiary of China Everbright Bank, has backed the transaction. In 2016, the Chinese lessor placed a firm order for 30 ARJ21s jets with an option to purchase 30 more. The deal, valued at roughly $2.3 billion based on list prices at the time, ranks as the largest single order of the type for Comac. CALC owns some 163 aircraft including 136 Airbus airplanes and 27 Boeings and its order backlog includes 145 Airbus aircraft and 66 Boeings.

CALC holds an equity stake in TransNusa via Aviation Synergy—a Cayman Island incorporated company that owns Singapore-based Naga Pacific Holdings—which in turn owns 49 percent of TransNusa. According to a CALC stock exchange filing, the Chinese lessor owns 72.8 percent of Aviation Synergy while its chief executive officer Poon Ho Man and deputy CEO Liu Wanting, hold 14.1 percent and 13.1 percent, respectively. Indonesian company PT Panca Global International Indonesia—controlled by TransNusa vice chairman Leo Budiman—holdsTransNusa’s remaining 51 percent stake.

TransNusa’s flight training campaign, launched this Wednesday, comes as the carrier looks to open its first international route, connecting Jakarta to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The operator will operate two daily flights between the two capitals, starting from April 14 ahead of Eid Al-Fitr celebrations. TransNusa now flies a modest fleet of three Airbus A320 aircraft and one A320neo.

At the end of 2022, the ARJ21 had collected a total of 690 orders from 25 customers plus 100 delivered to nine domestic and foreign companies, according to the Science and Technology Commission of Shanghai Municipality. The 100 aircraft currently operate on 316 routes and 118 cities. Meanwhile, Comac’s C919 narrowbody jet received a total of 1,035 orders from 32 customers by year-end, according to Comac. CALC inked an agreement for 20 C919s in 2011.

The world’s first C919 aircraft went to state-owned China Eastern Airlines last December and is the first of five narrowbodies on firm order for the SkyTeam alliance member. China Eastern expects delivery of the remaining four C919 aircraft over the next two years. The airline also plans to acquire 24 ARJ21s plus 10 widebodies, specifically six Airbus A350-900s and four Boeing 787-9s.