China will begin assembling the prototype of its first home-made commercial jet, an official said yesterday, bringing the nation one step closer to its ambition of becoming an aerospace power.
Built by the China Aviation Industry Corp, the country's biggest military aircraft maker, the assembly in Shanghai will start today and is scheduled to be completed by December.
"The ARJ-21 will come off the production line by the end of 2007 and start the flight trials in March 2008," an official with subsidiary Shanghai Aircraft Manufacturing Factory (SAMF) told reporters.
A report by the Shanghai Daily said the production capacity would be about 50 jets a year.
The ARJ-21 jet, a small regional passenger plane with 70 to 90 seats, will make its maiden flight a year from now, and is expected to enter the commercial market in the third quarter of 2009, the newspaper said.
Since launching the project in December 2003, the wholly state-run aviation group has received 71 orders for the ARJ-21, all from domestic airlines, the paper said.
China's government announced last week plans to build a large passenger aircraft which could eventually take on the world's two dominant commercial jet makers Boeing and Airbus.
China has repeatedly stated it wants to lessen its reliance on Boeing of the US and Europe's Airbus by producing its own planes.
Nevertheless about 40 percent of the ARJ-21's parts are made by foreign manufacturers, such as General Electric, Honeywell and Parker Hannifin, the newspaper said.
With the ARJ-21 seen as the first step in China becoming an aerospace power, a new company with foreign investment will be formed, entrusted with research and development.