August 19, 2022
Today in Aviation: First Flight of the Comac ARJ21
Today in Aviation

Today in Aviation: First Flight of the Comac ARJ21

MIAMI – Today in Aviation, the first prototype of the Comac ARJ21 Xiangfeng flew for the first time in 2008 from Shanghai’s Dachang Airfield.

The Comac ARJ21 Xiangfeng was first unveiled in March 2002 by Chinese state-owned aerospace manufacturer COMAC, which produces 78–90 seat regional jets.

The ARJ21 (Advanced Regional Jet) first prototype was unveiled on December 21, 2007. Chengdu Airlines introduced it on June 28, 2016, after receiving CAAC Type Certification on December 30, 2014.

The type has a 25° swept, supercritical wing built by Antonov and two rear-mounted General Electric CF34 engines, similar to the McDonnell Douglas MD-80/MD-90 produced under license in China.

Chengdu Airlines’ ARJ21 at Shanghai Hongqiao International Airport in 2019. Photo: By N509FZ – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=83900607

ARJ21 Development


The ARJ21’s development is an important project in China’s “10th Five-Year Plan.” The state-owned ACAC consortium led the initiative, which began in March 2002. The ARJ21 was supposed to fly for the first time in 2005, with commercial service starting 18 months later.

However, the program slowed to an eight-year halt. The design work took longer than expected, and the final trial manufacturing stage didn’t start until June 2006.

The ARJ21 is a small jet aircraft that resembles the MD-80, which was licensed to be built in China. COMAC says that a portion of its design was generated by Chinese supercomputers. In 2009, the ACAC consortium was reformed and merged with COMAC.

Still, some claim the ARJ21 closely resembles either the McDonnell Douglas MD-80 or the MD-90, both of which were produced under license in China. COMAC states that the ARJ21 is a completely indigenous design.

The first ARJ21 for Air China was delivered on 28 June 2020. Photo: By N509FZ – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=91656921

ARJ21 Production


The first production aircraft took to the skies on June 18, 2014. On October 30, AC104 performed an airspeed calibration flight.

On October 29, 2014, AC105 flew 83 flights between ten airports in Chengdu, Guiyang, Guilin, Haikou, Fuzhou, Zhoushan, Tianjin, Shijiazhuang, Yinchuan, and Xianyang as part of its route-proving program. The total time spent in the air was 173 hours and 55 minutes.

The ARJ21 was certified for mass production by the CAAC in early July 2017. The first ARJ21 constructed at Pudong’s second manufacturing line took its maiden production test flight on March 6, 2020. The second production line, which can produce up to 30 jets per year, is housed in the same location as the C919 assembly line.


Featured image: COMAC ARJ21 at the Zhuhai Air Show. Photo: By Shimin Gu – https://www.jetphotos.com/photo/6998514, GFDL 1.2, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=17079307

Chief Online Editor
Chief Online Editor at Airways Magazine, AVSEC interpreter and visual artist; grammar geek, an avid fan of aviation, motorcycles, sci-fi literature, and film.

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