Long-delayed ARJ21 certification set to slip again

Singapore
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Comac's ARJ21 regional jet is unlikely to receive certification until at least late next year, according to sources.

This means the programme, which started about 11 years ago and originally had first delivery scheduled for 2007, will again be delayed.

At Airshow China in Zhuhai in 2012, chief designer Chen Yong said the aim was for the ARJ21 to receive certification from the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) in the first half of 2013, and to deliver the jet to launch customer Chengdu Airlines in 2014. Thereafter, it could take up to two years before the aircraft was validated by the US Federal Aviation Administration, he added.

Progress, however, has been slow, because the inexperienced airframer continues to work with the CAAC, which is certificating a commercial jet for the first time, and is unfamiliar with the process, sources say.

It is understood that the ARJ21 has completed about 70% of the validation tests scheduled, and about 60% of flight tests necessary - so, it is almost impossible for the jet to be certificated this year. Publicly, the airframer said the ARJ21 passed several major milestones this year, including stall tests and minimum unstick speed tests - two high risk and critical tests of the programme.

The slow progress of the ageing ARJ21 has largely been attributed to the five-year-old airframer's lack of experience and small talent pool.

Comac has so far garnered 252 commitments for the ARJ21, mostly from Chinese airlines and leasing companies.