The real story from Asia Correspondent:
In this photo released by China's Xinhua News Agency, people in panda costumes pose in front of a Chengdu Airlines ARJ21-700 plane before its first commercial flight at Chengdu Shuangliu International Airport in Chengdu, China
CHINA’S first domestically-built jet made its debut flight on Tuesday, as the Chinese government attempts to make its mark in the commercial aircraft market.
The ARJ21-700 jet, operated by Chengdu Airlines, completed its inaugural voyage in a two-hour flight from the western city of Chengdu to Shanghai, carrying 70 passengers.
With the launch of its first jetliner, China’s government-backed aircraft manufacturer, Commercial Aircraft Corp. of China (COMAC), intends to become a competitor to Canada’s Bombadier Inc. and Brazil’s Embraer SA.
COMAC chairman Jin Zhuanglong said: “The first flight of the ARJ21 marks the beginning of commercial operations for the jetliner and signifies the first time a domestically made regional jet has been used by a Chinese airline.”
It wasn’t all smooth sailing, however, as the Wall Street Journal said that state news agency Xinhua had reported complaints from the plane’s pilot about noise and vibration in the cabin during the maiden flight.
“The manufacturer has plans to make improvements and we hope that they can resolve the noise and vibration issues,” said Chengdu Airlines Capt. Zhang Fangjie.
While China is one of the largest markets in the aviation industry, it has so far relied heavily on foreign-made aircraft.
However, as part of a government initiative to reduce that dependency, the ARJ21 and a full-size jetliner currently under development, the C919, were commissioned.The ARJ21’s debut was originally set for 2006, but a number of production setbacks kept it in development for longer than expected.
According to Chengdu Airlines, apart from the Chengdu-Shanghai route, other destinations will soon be added, such as Shenzhen, Nanjing, and Changsha.
So far, COMAC has received more than 300 orders for the ARJ21, most of which come from Chinese airlines and leasing firms, while Chengdu Airlines has ordered another 29 ARJ21s, with its second plane due to be ready by August.