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China takes off: first jet airliner launched
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's first home-grown jet airliner, the ARJ21-700, rolls off the production line at the Shanghai Aircraft Manufacturing Factory yesterday. The jet's name, "Xiang Feng" or "Flying Phoenix," was also unveiled after being chosen in Internet competition.


China's first homemade passenger jet ARJ21 rolled off the production line in Shanghai yesterday marking a major step forward for the domestic aviation market.


The ARJ21 jet's name, "Xiang Feng" - Flying Phoenix - was also unveiled at the roll-out ceremony. The name was chosen after a global competition on the Internet, said a spokesman for the China Aviation Industry Corporation I (AVIC I), the jet's designer and producer.


The first ARJ21-700 jet, powered by a turbofan engine, can carry 90 passengers with a maximum range of 2,000 nautical miles.


"China's aviation industry stepped into a new era today," Lin Zuoming, the general manager of AVIV I, said at the inauguration ceremony at the Shanghai Aircraft Manufacturing Factory.


Shenzhen Airlines added to the impressive ceremony by signing a deal with AVIC I to buy 100 ARJ jets. The maker had received orders for 71 jets before the Shenzhen deal, mainly from carriers and plane leasing units like Shanghai Airlines, Shandong Airlines and Laos Airlines.


"Some foreign companies are showing increasing interest in the ARJ21 jets. We expect to receive more overseas orders in the first half of next year," said a source with AVIC I.


The mid-size, short-haul airliner's maiden flight is scheduled for March 2008 and the plane will be delivered to customers by September 2009 after it has its airworthiness certified in the first half of that year.


Shandong Airlines is expected to be its first user.


Vice chief designer Chen Yong said the jet will go through more than 170 tests before it gets the certification.


Vice Premier Zeng Peiyan encouraged AVIC I to promote the sales of ARJ21 internationally and to keep working on research and development for larger aircraft.


"The orders for 171 jets show ARJ's competitive ability and prosperous future - I believe the jet has come of age in both technology and in sales," Zeng said.


The ARJ21, or Advanced Regional Jet for the 21st Century, can seat 90 passengers in its 3.14-meter wide and 2.06-meter high cabin and its seats are wider than Boeing's 737.


The project, which dates back to early 2005, is seen as the precursor to China building its own big jets one day. The entire development has cost six billion yuan (US$815 million).


A 600-million-yuan hangar covering 65,000 square meters was completed at Shanghai Aircraft Manufacturing Factory on Wednesday for the jet's assembly and trials.


AVIC I said the ARJ-21 is expected to grab up to 60 percent of the domestic market for mid-size regional airliners over the next 20 years.


Experts estimate that China will need another 800 to 1,000 regional jets by 2020 and the production capacity of ARJ will reach 30 aircraft annually by 2011.


The project will enable the state-owned AVIC I to compete with other makers of smaller passenger jets, such as Canada's Bombardier Inc and Brazil's Embraer SA.


(Shanghai Daily December 24, 2007)



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