Sep 26, 2013

    Delivery of first China jetliner delayed again

    THE delivery date of China's long-delayed first commercial jet airliner has been pushed back again, the manufacturer said yesterday, the latest setback for China's ambitions to challenge market leaders Boeing and Airbus.

    Originally promised for 2007, the plane was most recently expected late this year, but Comac (Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China) chairman Jin Zhuanglong said it will now be ready in the middle of next year.

    "The development will not always go smoothly, and the programme cannot be accomplished at one stroke," he was quoted as saying in comments released by the company.

    Mr Jin blamed delays in the ARJ21 programme on China's inexperience in designing, building and certifying commercial jetliners. But he said it is still on track for delivery next year to launch Chengdu Airlines, a small Chinese regional carrier that has ordered 30 of the planes.

    He said four prototypes have made 2,000 flights. Two customer aircraft are in final assembly and another is under construction, he said.

    Despite its problems, Comac already has about 240 firm orders and options for the ARJ21, mostly from domestic carriers, but also from GE Capital Aviation Services and Lao Airlines.

    Beijing has built up state-owned "national champions" not only in aviation, but also in industries from oil and telecoms to steel and banking, with monopolies, low-cost bank loans and other perks.