First International Sale of the COMAC ARJ21 Regional Jet - Modern Airliners

First International Sale of the COMAC ARJ21 Regional Jet

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The Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China, Ltd. (COMAC) has for the first time inked a deal to sell one of its aircraft to an airline outside of China. This is a major milestone and reinforces the fact that China is becoming a very relevant force in the airliner manufacturing space. To date, the COMAC ARJ21 regional jet has been sold and operated exclusively on China’s domestic networks by airlines such as Chengdu Airlines (launch customer), OTT Airlines (Subsidiary of China Eastern Airlines), China Express Airlines, China Southern Airlines, China Flight General Aviation Company (CFGAC), Genghis Khan Airlines and Jiangxi Air.

Who is the international lauch customer of the COMAC ARJ21 Regional Jet?

Indonesia’s PT TransNusa Aviation Mandiri, more simply known as TransNusa is a regional domestic airline with routes concentrated in the eastern part of the country. It is based in Kupang on the island of Timor and services destinations in Nusa Tenggara, Timor and South Sulawesi. TransNusa was inaugurated in August 2005 using aircraft chartered from Pelita Air and Trigana Air Service and gained its own operator licence in August 2011.

TranNusa started operations with destinations in South Sulawesi, Nusa Tenggara and Timor.
TranNusa started operations with destinations in South Sulawesi, Nusa Tenggara and Timor.

Throughout its life, TranNusa has forged various business partnerships with other operators, acting as a feeder airline for other carriers as well as leasing or block buying seats on carriers such as Aviastar, Indonesia Air Transport, Sriwijaya Air and Riau Airlines. Aircraft operated by TransNusa include Fokker 28s, Fokker 50s, ATR 42-300s. These aircraft were leased from Trigana, Pelita Air and Riau Airlines.

F-WWLX ATR42-512(600) TransNusa Airways 22SEP14
TransNusa has operated various aircraft including this ATR-600.

Over the period 2017 – 18, TransNusa bought four new aircraft of their own, three ATR 72-600s and an ATR 42-500. By 2019 the airline boasted a fleet of 1 BAe 146 and 7 ATRs with 3 ATRs about to be delivered. Things were looking good for TransNusa with various safety awards having been achieved. Then Covid hit.

Like most places in the world, Covid changed travel in Indonesia. As a result, TransNusa decided to temporarily cease operations in September 2020 and returned aircraft to their lessors.

A restart for TransNusa.

In November 2021, TransNusa announced it was coming back. This time the airline would reinvent itself as a Low-Cost Carrier (LCC) with a restart set for February 2022. A recent investment in the airline by China Aircraft Leasing Company (CALC) to the tune of 35.68% has been responsible for the change in strategy. No doubt this change is also responsible for the decision to lease 30 ARJ21s.

What is the COMAC ARJ21 Regional Jet?

The Comac ARJ21 Xiangfeng (Chinese for Rising Phoenix), is a twin-jet airliner with engines mounted on each side of the rear fuselage. The ARJ21 (Advanced Regional Jet) began development in March 2002 with the first prototype rolling out on 21 December 2007. CAAC type certification was achieved on 30 December 2014. The project for various reasons fell behind and certification was eventually 8 years behind target. Testing in cold climate and ice conditions were actually conducted in North America with many of the proving flights conducted around the world.

Chengdu Airlines COMAC ARJ21 Regional Jet Xiangfeng
Chengdu Airlines was the launch customer of the COMAC ARJ21.

The ARJ21 does depend heavily on imported technology and parts, such as engines by General Electric and the wing designed by Antonov of Ukraine. China maintains that the design has been done completely in China by supercomputers, however, there are those who are keen to point out the similarities with the McDonnell-Douglas MD-80 and MD-90. The MD-80 and MD-90 were licenced to be built in China, and tooling for those airframes was left in China.

Chengdu Airlines was the first to receive the ARJ21 and took delivery on 29 November 2015. They commenced commercial services on 28 June 2016 with a flight from Chengdu Shuangliu Airport to Shanghai.

Mass assembly of the ARJ21 will enable 30 units to be produced per year and is located in the same facility as the COMAC C919 production plant in Pudong, Shanghai.

ARJ21 Specs

Type ARJ21-700 ARJ21-900
First Flight 28 November 2008 TBA
Crew 2
Passengers One class 90
Two class 78
One class 105
Two class 98
Cabin Width(Internal) 3.14 Meters (10 feet 4 inches)
Cabin Ceiling Height 2.03 metres (6 feet 8 inches)
Aircraft Length 33.46 metres(109 feet 9 inches) 36.35 metres (119 feet 3 iinches)
Main Wing Span 27.28 metres (89 feet 6 inches)
Main Wing Area 79.86 square metres(859.6 square feet)
Main Wing Sweep back 25 degrees
MTOW 40,500 Kg (89,300 lb) Standard
43,500 Kg (95,900 lb) Extended Range
43,616 Kg (96,157 lb) Standard
47,182 Kg (104,019 lb) Extended Range
OEW 24,955 kg (55,016 lb) 26,270 Kg (57,920 lb) Standard
26,770 Kg (59,020 lb) Extended Range
Cargo Capacity 120.14 cubic metres (711 cubic feet) TBA
Takeoff Dist. 1,700 metres (5,600 feet) Standard
1,900 metres (6,200 feet) Extended Range
1,750 metres (5,740 feet) Standard
1,950 metres (6,400 feet) Extended Range
Fuel Capacity 10,386 Kg (22,897 lb) TBA
Engines x 2 General Electric CF34-10A
Engine Thrust x 2 75.87 kN (17,057 lbf) 82 kN (18,500 lbf)
Speed (Cruise) Mach 0.78 (828 kph, 447 kn, 514 mph)
Speed (Maximum) Mach 0.82 (870 kph, 470 kn, 541 mph)
Service Ceiling 11,900 metres (39,000 feet)
Range 1,200 NM (2,200km, 1,400 Miles) Standard
2,000 nm (3,700 km, 2,300 miles) Extended Range
1,200 NM (2,200km, 1,400 Miles) Standard
1,800 nm (3,300 km, 2,100 miles) Extended Range

The TransNusa Deal

The ARJ21 deal calls for 30 aircraft to be delivered with an option for 30 more in the future. The delivery of February 2022 looks like it might be on time, as an ARJ 21 in TransNusa colours has been seen at Shanghai’s Pudong airport. This is an important step for COMAC as it can now show that their aircraft are relevant in the non-Chinese market as well.

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