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ARJ21-700 completes maiden flight
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China's first homegrown regional jet, an ARJ21-700, completed its maiden flight Friday in Shanghai, the Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China Ltd. (COMAC) said.

The maiden flight began at 12:23 p.m. and lasted for about an hour at Shanghai Aircraft Manufacturing Factory, where the jet rolled out the general assembly line at the end of last year.

"The jet was normal and the flight was smooth," said Zhao Peng, one of the three pilots aboard the jet, at the end of the maiden flight.

The white 90-seat ARJ21-700 jet with three curved blue stripes on the fuselage, named "Xiang Feng" or "Flying Phoenix", is about 33 meters long and 27 meters in wing span.

Its maximum flight range is 3,700 kilometers and maximum altitude, 11,900 meters, said COMAC's General Manager Jin Zhuanglong.

But the jet flew at only 900 meters during the maiden flight.

Delivery of the aircraft would begin in less than 18 months, after a series of trial flights and the award of airworthiness certificate, said Hu Haiyin, Party secretary of COMAC.

Hu said the China has rolled out six ARJ21 aircraft so far, all of which are undergoing flight tests.

He said the country is currently capable of producing 20 ARJ21 jets a year.

The ARJ21 (Advanced Regional Jet for the 21st Century) was developed independently by China. It was also the first Chinese aircraft to be sold to Europe and America.

A total of 208 ARJ21-700s have been ordered so far, including 25 by GE Commercial Aviation Services of the United States.

The jet sells for about US$27 million, compared with US$30 million for a 90-seat Bombardier jet.

China Aviation Industry Corporation, the parent company of COMAC, predicts that worldwide carriers will need about 6,600 regional aircraft in the coming 20 years, 70 percent of which will be jets.

"With less fuel consumption and longer flight hours, the ARJ21 will reduce air fares by 8 to 10 percent for Chinese airlines, most of whom currently use large aircraft above 140 seats on short and medium routes," said COMAC's General Manager Jin Zhuanglong.

(Xinhua News Agency November 28, 2008)

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