China’s first domestically built jetliner made its maiden commercial flight Tuesday, carrying several dozen passengers and hopes for growth in the country’s aircraft industry.
State-owned aerospace company Comac has received orders for more than 300 of the ARJ21 regional jets from about 20 airlines, nearly all Chinese.
Chengdu Airlines became the first carrier to fly the ARJ21, taking about 70 passengers without incident from the Sichuan Province capital of Chengdu to Shanghai. The carrier plans to use the new jet on other routes as well.
The national project to develop the jet began in 2002. Heavy on foreign technology, including engines built by General Electric, the 70- to 90-seat plane belongs to the same class of economical short-haul aircraft as the Japanese-made Mitsubishi Regional Jet.
Though the ARJ21 logged its first flight in 2008, design changes and other delays pushed back the plane’s entry into commercial service. The jet has yet to be issued a type certificate by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration — an important test of airworthiness. So far, foreign orders for the plane have been limited to Africa.