Comac ARJ21

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ARJ21 Xiangfeng
COMAC ARJ21 Gu.jpg
ARJ21-700 in flight at the Zhuhai Air Show (2010).
Role Regional jet
Manufacturer Comac
Designer AVIC I Commercial Aircraft Company (ACAC)
First flight 28 November 2008
Introduction 28 June 2016 with Chengdu Airlines[1]
Status In production, in service (deliveries began)
Primary user Chengdu Airlines[2]
Produced 2007–present[3]
Number built 30[4]
Unit cost
US$40 million as of 2018[citation needed]
Developed from Partly based on McDonnell Douglas MD-80 engineering Wise [5]

The Comac ARJ21 Xiangfeng (Chinese: 翔凤; pinyin: xiángfèng; literally: 'Soaring Phoenix') is a 78-90 seat regional jet manufactured by the Chinese State owned aerospace company Comac. Development of the ARJ21 (Advanced Regional Jet) began in March 2002, the first prototype was rolled out on 21 December 2007, and made its maiden flight on 28 November 2008 from Shanghai. It received its CAAC Type Certification on 30 December 2014 and was introduced on 28 June 2016 by Chengdu Airlines. Resembling the McDonnell Douglas MD-80/MD-90 produced under licence in China, it features a 25° swept, supercritical wing designed by Antonov and twin rear-mounted General Electric CF34 engines.


Joy Air ARJ21 Model at the 2008 China Airshow

The development of the ARJ21 (Advanced Regional Jet) is a key project in the "10th Five-Year Plan" of China. It began in March 2002 and was led by the state-owned ACAC consortium. The maiden flight of the ARJ21 was initially planned to take place in 2005 with commercial service beginning 18 months later.[6] The programme became eight years behind schedule.[7] The design work was delayed and the final trial production stage did not begin until June 2006.[8]

The first prototype (serial number 101) rolled out on 21 December 2007, with plans for a maiden flight in March 2008.[9] This was first delayed to 21 September 2008 and finally took place on 28 November 2008 at Shanghai's Dachang Airfield.[10] The aircraft completed a long-distance test flight on 15 July 2009, flying from Shanghai to Xi'an in 2 hours 19 minutes, over a distance of 1,300 km. The second ARJ21 (serial number 102) completed the same test flight route on 24 August 2009. The third aircraft (serial number 103) similarly completed its first test flight on 12 September 2009.[11] The fourth aircraft (CN 104) flew by November 2010. By August 2011, static, flutter and crosswind flight tests had been completed.[12] Deliveries to customers were expected to begin in late 2010, starting with Chengdu Airlines.[13]

The ARJ21 is a small jet aircraft that looks similar to the MD-80, which was licensed to be built in China, although COMAC claims that it is an original design, part of which was created by supercomputers in China.[14]

The ACAC consortium initially aimed to manufacture 11 ARJ21s a year by 2010, and 30 per year by 2015. Despite these plans, ACAC only managed to build 10 aircraft by 2016, and 10 deliveries by 2018. In 2009 the consortium was reorganized and became a part of COMAC.[15]

Further delays and first flight[edit]


In November 2010, an ARJ21 wing failed to reach the predicted load rating during static testing. The wing's failure then led the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) to limit the aircraft's flight envelope during its flight test program. The new delivery date was then set at the end of 2011.[16]

On 19 August 2011, it was reported that the first delivery of the ARJ21 would likely to be delayed by up to a year or more after problems surfaced during the flight testing programme.[17] On 24 August 2011, it was reported that two components of the testing program had not been completed; icing tests were underway but delayed, and stall speed tests had not yet begun. According to an anonymous source within the program, this could lead to delays in obtaining type certification, which could in turn lead to delays in delivery.[12]

On 8 June 2012, a COMAC official told Reuters that the ARJ21 was unlikely to receive regulatory approval before 2013, without giving an official reason for the five-year delay. A Reuters investigation suggested that problems with wing cracks, wiring and avionics had contributed to the delay.[18]

Earning a United States Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) type certification is a precondition for the ARJ21-700 to enter the global aviation market. Since 2003, the aviation authorities of China and the USA had been negotiating the ARJ21-700 application for FAA type certification and shadow certification. As a result, the FAA will accept a type certification application for the AVIC I Commercial Aircraft Company's ARJ21-700 that will be sent by the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC). The FAA also decided to develop a shadow certification for the ARJ21-700 under current standards and established the CAAC Technology Support Office in Shanghai and Beijing. At the meeting, Luo Ronghuai, assistant general manager of AVIC 1 and general manager of ACAC, said ACAC would follow the strict airworthiness standards of the CAAC and FAA.[19]

On 28 June 2012, the ARJ21-700 travelled at high speed on a specially constructed test lane at Xi'an Yanliang airport. Since 22 June, the aircraft has undergone ten tests on taxiing, takeoff and landing at different speeds on a flooded runway. The tests ensure that the aircraft is able to taxi, take off and land despite having water on the runway. Since the aircraft entered the validation flight test phase in February 2012, it has been scheduled to undergo 1,500 hours of validation flight tests involving 280 subjects. It has since completed the airspeed calibration, natural icing, engine nacelle anti-icing and crosswind validation tests and is preparing for a stall flight test.[20]

In July 2012, Comac's chief financial officer Tian Min said at the Farnborough Airshow that he expected the aircraft to receive certification from both the US FAA and the Civil Aviation Administration of China in 2013, with the first delivery to launch customer Chengdu Airlines, to occur around the end of 2013. He told the press that "The programme is now undergoing certification tests and flights. There have been some problems but that's part of the process and progress is good. There are no serious issues".[21]

However, in September 2013, COMAC announced that it hoped the ARJ21-700 would achieve CAAC certification during 2014, and enter service by the end of 2014.[22][23] The launch customer, Chengdu Airlines, was due to receive its first aircraft by the end of 2011, but ongoing delays in the certification process has caused this to be postponed.[20] After the first production aircraft flew on 18 June 2014, it was announced that production of two aircraft was planned for 2014, with five, eight, 15 and 20 aircraft in 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018 respectively.[7]

Key flight tests and CAAC certification[edit]

ARJ21-700 AC104 of Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China, Ltd. (COMAC) returned to China safely on April 28, 2014 after successfully completing natural icing flight testing in North America. This was the first time a turbofan-powered regional jet independently developed by China had flown abroad to carry out flight tests in special weather conditions. In the meantime, the fleet of ARJ21-700 test aircraft has achieved a global flight log of more than 30,000 km across Asia, America, Europe, and the Pacific and Atlantic oceans. This success of the ARJ21-700 in natural icing flight testing has cleared another obstacle toward airworthiness certification, and proven access and feasibility for China's civil aircraft to carry out flight testing abroad.[24]

ARJ21-700 AC104 successfully completed one flight of supplementary applicant flight test for compliance of airspeed calibration on October 30, 2014, which led to an entire completion of all flight tests undertaken by AC104 before Type Certification (TC).

Since the first flight on April 13, 2010, AC104 has undertaken and completed major flight tests of stall, high-speed characteristic, noise, simulated icing, minimum flight crew, etc., and has realized global flight and natural icing flight test successfully in this year. Over the years, ARJ21-700 AC104 has accumulated 711 flights in 1,442 hours and 23 minutes, and accomplished 468 test points (74 tests) of applicant flight test for compliance and 420 test points (63 tests) of certification flight test. AC104 becomes the first test aircraft which completes all the flight tests before TC.[25]

ARJ21-700 AC105 returned to Yanliang airport at 12:32 on December 16, 2014 from Xi'an Xianyang International Airport after the last flight for function and reliability flight test, which indicates that the function and reliability flight test of ARJ21-700 aircraft has been completed successfully, and also indicates that all the flight tests before airworthiness certification of the aircraft have been completed successfully.

Function and reliability flight test is the last major special flight test before the issuance of Type Certificate (TC). ARJ21-700 aircraft has conducted the function and reliability flight test strictly in accordance with flight test plan and successfully completed the special inspection of various systems. Since the flight test was officially started on October 29, AC105 has successively conducted 83 flights in the routes among ten airports in Chengdu, Guiyang, Guilin, Haikou, Fuzhou, Zhoushan, Tianjin, Shijiazhuang, Yinchuan and Xianyang to simulate operations in routes. The cumulative flight time was 173 hours and 55 minutes.[26]

The ARJ21-700 advanced regional jet received its Type Certification under Chapter 25 of the Chinese civil aviation regulations from the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC), on December 30, 2014.[27] The program logged 5,000 hours before obtaining certification from the CAAC.[28] ARJ21-700 completed the final demonstration flight on 12 September 2015 prior to delivery.


On 29 November 2015, COMAC delivered the first ARJ21-700 to Chengdu Airlines.[29] The first commercial flight took off from Chengdu Shuangliu Airport on June 28, 2016, landing in Shanghai two hours later.[30][31] one day after its commercial flight was approved by the CAAC.

During the remaining summer schedule period, i.e. until October 29, 2016, the ARJ21-700 was scheduled to operate three weekly rotations between Chengdu and Shanghai Hongqiao. Of these 108 planned flight segments, 85 were operated by ARJ21 (81 by B-3321, four by B-3322), 22 by Airbus A319 and one was cancelled. Since the beginning of the winter schedule period 2016/2017 on October 30, 2016, no passenger flights were scheduled nor conducted.

Initial operational feedback of aircraft was rather poor. The biggest issue was inability of the aircraft to land on wet runways. Other reported issues were high noise level in the rear cabin, no ACARS (Aircrew Address and Reporting System) and complex cockpit warning systems.[32]

Further developments[edit]

In June 2018, an ARJ21-700+ was planned to cut weight and drag for 2021 before a 115-seat -900 stretch from the -700 seating 90 in all-economy like the CRJ900, E175-E2 or MRJ90. Structurally conservative as it was designed by a new entrant and designed for hot and high operations, its 25 t (55,000 lb) empty it is heavier than its competitors and than targeted at program launch in 2002. Cabin fittings and secondary structures could be lightened: lighter seats can cut 500 kg (1,100 lb), aerodynamic refinements will cut drag, avionics may be improved and the GE CF34-10 can be uprated from 18,500 to 20,000 lbf (82 to 89 kN). An executive version was in final assembly and a cargo variant could be developed.[33]


In early July 2017, the CAAC certified the ARJ21 for mass production.[34] Five ARJ21s will be handed over in 2017 while in September two have entered service since its first delivery in November 2015 but production should reach 15 in 2018, then 20 in 2019 and 25 in 2020; the full rate of 30-50 aircraft a year could be reached with a second, 30 per year production line being set up at Shanghai Pudong International Airport.[35]


Different sources claim the ARJ21 closely resembles either the McDonnell Douglas MD-80 or the MD-90 which were produced under licence in China[36][37] and for which the production tooling was never returned to McDonnell Douglas. Comac states that the ARJ21 is a completely indigenous design.[38][39][40] The ARJ21's development did depend heavily on foreign suppliers, including engines and avionics from the United States. The ARJ21 features an all-new supercritical wing having a sweepback of 25 degrees and designed by Ukraine’s Antonov Design Bureau. It is fitted with winglets to improve aerodynamic performance.[41][42][43] Antonov also assisted the project with geometrical determination and integral analysis of the construction strength of ARJ21.[41] Some of China's supercomputers have been used to design parts for ARJ21.[44]


Members of the ACAC consortium, which was formed to develop the aircraft, will manufacture major components of the aircraft:


Baseline model which has a capacity of 70 to 95 passengers.
Stretched fuselage model based on the ARJ21-700, which will have a capacity of 95 to 105 passengers.
Planned dedicated freighter version of the ARJ21-700. It will have a capacity of five LD7 containers or PIP pallets, with a maximum payload of 10,150 kg.
Planned business jet version of the ARJ21-700. A typical configuration would cater for 20 passengers.


Chengdu Airlines' ARJ21 at Shanghai Hongqiao International Airport in 2019

In October 2018, six aircraft were in service with an average monthly utilisation rate of around 30 hours.[28]

Orders and deliveries[edit]

As of 31 August 2018, Comac has 221 outstanding orders after 6 deliveries to launch operator Chengdu Airlines, which put it in service on 28 June 2016.[51]

Executing Orders

Date Airline Confirmed


2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020
Jan 2010 China Chengdu Airlines 30 1 1 2 6 7
Aug 20, 2018 China Genghis Khan Airlines 25(+25) 3
July 16, 2018 China Urumqi Airlines 20 1
China Jiangxi Air 5 1
China CFGAC 2 1
Totals 82(+25) Orders 1 1 2 6 12 1

Reported Orders

Date Airline Type Options Rights
ARJ21-700 ARJ21B
Sep 2003 China Shanghai Airlines[52] 5
China Shandong Airlines[52] 10
China Shenzhen Financial Leasing[52] 20
Mar 2004 China Xiamen Airlines[53][a] 37[citation needed]
Dec 2007 China Henan Airlines[54][55] 100
Dec 2007 Laos Lao Airlines[56][57] 2
Mar 2008 United States GECAS[58] 5 20
China Joy Air[59] 50
May 2010 Indonesia Merukh Enterprises[60] 10
Nov 11, 2014 Republic of the Congo Republic of Congo[61] 4
March 9, 2015 China ICBC Leasing[62] 30
August 30, 2019 China Air China[63] 35
August 30, 2019 China China Eastern Airlines[63] 35
August 30, 2019 China China Southern Airlines[63] 35
Totals 378 Orders 20
  1. ^ Although the Xiamen order for six was reported in some press as firm, ACAC's own web site still shows them as "options"

Thailand City Airways ordered 10 ARJ21 on lease.[64] All leases and future deliveries on hold due to operations ceasing in September 2016.

An Indonesian airline will fly with its entire fleet consisting of 60 ARJ21 aircraft, although as of now that airline is not specified.[65]


ARJ21-700 ARJ21-900
Cockpit crew Two
Seating capacity 90 (1-class)
78 (2-class)
105 (1-class)
98 (2-class)
Seat pitch 31 in (1-class), 36 & 32 in (2-class)
Length 33.46 m (109 ft 9 in) 36.35 m (119 ft 3 in)
Wingspan 27.28 m (89 ft 6 in)
Wing area 79.86 m2 (859.6 sq ft)
Wing sweepback 25 degrees
Height 8.44 m (27 ft 8 in)
Cabin width 3.14 m (10 ft 4 in)
Cabin height 2.03 m (6 ft 8 in)
Aisle width 48.3 cm (19.0 in)
Seat width 45.5 cm (17.9 in)
OEW 24,955 kg (55,016 lb) 26,270 kg (57,920 lb) STD
26,770 kg (59,020 lb) ER
MTOW 40,500 kg (89,300 lb) STD
43,500 kg (95,900 lb) ER
43,616 kg (96,157 lb) STD
47,182 kg (104,019 lb) ER
Cargo capacity 20.14 m3 (711 cu ft) -
Take-off run at MTOW 1,700 m (5,600 ft) STD
1,900 m (6,200 ft) ER
1,750 m (5,740 ft) STD
1,950 m (6,400 ft) ER
Service ceiling 11,900 m (39,000 ft)
Max. operating speed Mach 0.82 (870 km/h, 470 kn, 541 mph)
Normal cruise speed Mach 0.78 (828 km/h, 447 kn, 514 mph)
Range (fully loaded) 1,200 NM (2,200 km; 1,400 mi) STD
2,000 NM (3,700 km; 2,300 mi) ER
1,200 NM (2,200 km; 1,400 mi) STD
1,800 NM (3,300 km; 2,100 mi) ER
Maximum fuel load 10,386 kg (22,897 lb) -
Powerplants (2x) General Electric CF34-10A[66]
Engine thrust 75.87 kN (17,057 lbf) 82 kN (18,500 lbf)
  • Notes: Data are provided for reference only. STD = Standard Range, ER = Extended Range
  • Sources: ARJ21 Series,[67] ICAS[68]

See also[edit]

Related development

Aircraft of comparable role, configuration and era

Related lists


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External links[edit]