Exclusive: China-made regional jet set for delivery, but no U.S. certification

Wed Oct 21, 2015 5:33pm EDT
 
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By Siva Govindasamy and Matthew Miller

SINGAPORE/BEIJING (Reuters) - China's first domestically designed passenger jet will be delivered without U.S. certification, a potential dent to both the aircraft's international credibility and to joint safety efforts by Chinese and U.S. regulators.

The Comac ARJ-21 regional jet, which can seat up to 90 passengers, received the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) type certification last December and will be delivered to launch customer Chengdu Airlines shortly, two people familiar with the plane's program told Reuters.

The plane will fly without U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) certification despite a five-year effort to have the FAA endorse CAAC's certification procedures, the people said.

An FAA type certificate would have boosted the reputation of the airplane's developer Commercial Aircraft Corp of China (Comac) and cleared the way for the plane to be sold and operated globally - though expectations for foreign sales had been low. Without it, the aircraft can operate only in China and some Asian, African and South American countries that recognize the CAAC's certificate.

Chengdu Airlines, a low-cost carrier, is expected to fly the plane on commercial domestic operations in the first quarter of 2016. Comac has received nearly 350 orders for the ARJ-21, mainly from Chinese airlines and leasing firms.

SHADOWING

Since 2010, the FAA has undertaken a shadow certification process to assess the CAAC's ability to conduct a technical assessment of aircraft. But tensions arose between the two regulators last year over various technical and bureaucratic issues, before the process ended in early 2015, those familiar with the program said.   Continued...

 
Models of the ARJ21 regional jet from Commercial Aircraft Corp of China (COMAC) are displayed at the Aviation Expo China 2015 in Beijing, China, September 16, 2015. REUTERS/Jason Lee