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A COMAC ARJ21 test aircraft during a runway test. (Photo: COMAC).


The COMAC ARJ21 ('Advanced Regional Jet for the 21st Century') is a regional airliner developed and built in China.

The development of the ARJ21 started in March 2002 by the state-owned ACAC consortium, which after a reorganisation in 2009 became part of COMAC. The first flight was initially planned to happen in 2005 and entry into service one and a half year later. However, the project suffered severe delays. The first prototype was rolled out from the factory on 21 December 2007 and the first flight took place on 28 November 2008 from Shanghai's Dachang Airfield. At that time the plan was to deliver the first aircraft to Chengdu airlines in late 2010, but it lasted seven years after the first flight to get the aircraft certified. The ARJ21-700 received its Chinese Type Certificate on 30 December 2014. The intention was to acquire FAA and EASA certification as well.

When the engineers designed the ARJ21, they had the western part of China in mind. This part of the country is far less densely populated than the east and therefore seems to be a good market for regional jets. The region is also at an altitude much above sea-level, and that played an important role in the specifications of the aircraft.

COMAC ARJ21 The Chinese aircraft builders have been accused of copying the McDonnell Douglas MD-80 because the ARJ-21 looks much like a MD-80 derivative. Indeed, the tooling for the MD-80 license production was used. The Chinese said that the ARJ21 was supposed to be a 'practice plane' to gather experience before starting a completely new design. Still, many things are different.

The design incorporates a T-tail and a supercritical wing with 25 degrees sweepback and integrated winglets, which has been designed by the Antonov Design Bureau in Ukraine. A lot of western systems are installed. The aircraft is powered by two General Electric CF34-10A turbofans and uses systems from suppliers including Honeywell, Rockwell Collins, Hamilton Sundstrand and Liebherr. The two engines are mounted at the rear of the fuselage and the aircraft is equipped with a fly-by-wire flight control system. Passengers sit five-abreast, like in the MD-80.

COMAC has planned several versions. The baseline model is the ARJ21-700, which seats 70 to 95 passengers. The ARJ21-900 is a stretched version seating 95 to 105 passengers. The ARJ21F is a cargo version of the ARJ 21-700 with a maximum payload of 10,150 kg and the ARJ21B is a corporate jet aircraft.

COMAC claims to have commitments for several hundreds of aircraft. Until mid 2018 a small number of ARJ21s has been delivered to launch customer Chengdu Airlines, the only operator so far.

ARJ21-700ER Specifications

COMAC ARJ21 Wingspan: 27.28 m (89 ft 6 in). Length: 33.46 m (109 ft 9 in). Height: 8.44 m (27 ft 8 in).
Empty weight: 24,955 kg (55,016 lb). Max. take-off weight: 43,500 kg (95,900 lb).
Passengers: 78-90. Range: 3,700 km (2,000 nm). Cruise speed: 828 km/h (447 kts). Engines: two General Electric CF34-10A (17,057 lb - 75.8 kN).
(Photo: COMAC)


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