Air Transport World

The path to the dream: the ARJ21 is only the first step toward fulfilling China's ambitions in aircraft manufacturing.(AIRFRAMES)

AS HE LOOKED AT THE LAST remaining Yun-10 resting in the corner of a Shanghai aircraft manufacturing factory last year, Cheng Bushi, deputy chief designer of China's first domestically designed and manufactured large civil jet transport, recalled that he didn't expect he would have to wait more than two decades for Beijing to respond affirmatively to his pleas to build a successor.

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The 150/180-passenger Yun-10, originally known as the "708 Project," came to life in August 1970 and the four-engine aircraft made its first flight on Sept. 26, 1980. Five years later, however, after two models had been built and a third was in production, the project was abandoned. For the next 22 years, China was a buyer, not a seller, of large commercial transports. Then in March 2007, Beijing decided to return to the market and announced that its dream of challenging Boeing and Airbus "is expected to come true by 2020 if everything goes well." Twelve months later, the country moved one step closer toward achieving this goal by establishing a new company in Shanghai to develop a 150-seat aircraft.

The effort will build on the foundation of the ARJ21 regional jet, which was launched in 2002 by AVIC I. "The ARJ21's success will be very meaningful for our 'jumbo aircraft' in the future," Chief designer Wu Guanghui acknowledged. The "Xiang Feng" (Flying Phoenix), as it is known, rolled out in december 2007 and is expected to make its maiden flight in September or october, a six-month delay from initial plans to fly it in March. AVIC I attributed the delay to the fact that "supplier[s] of key systems were not able to provide necessary test conditions on time. …

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