A model of ARJ21700, China's homegrown regional jetliner, on display at the 2014 Farnborough International Airshow. (Photo/China Daily)
Three pilots from Chengdu Airlines Co Ltd, the launch-client of the China-made ARJ21 regional airliner, are likely to be the first to gain licenses to fly the new planes commercially, the carrier said on Tuesday.
They have been taking tests for the licenses in Shanghai since the start of the month, and "could be given the licenses before we receive the first ARJ21 in late November", said an official from the airline, which ordered 30 ARJ21 aircraft in 2009.
Besides preparing its pilots, Chengdu Airlines is also hard at work readying the rest of its workforce for the new arrivals, the carrier said in a statement to China Daily.
Nearly 200 staff, including flight crews, flight attendants, engineers and technicians, have been trained since 2011, it said, in operating the ARJ21 and in planning the routes likely to use it.
The airline currently operates 50 domestic routes, and is expected to use the ARJ21 right from the start on its key destination cities to promote the new aircraft.
"The ARJ21's first commercial flight may be on the Chengdu to Shanghai or Beijing route," said Sui Mingguang, its general manager.
After delivery, the carrier still needs at least three months to prepare before operating the new airplanes commercially, said Sui, and during that period, promotional tickets at discounts of up to 60 percent are planned.
A quarter of Chengdu Airlines' business is on tourist routes, making the 70-to 90-seat ARJ21 ideal for cheaper, shorter domestic travel.
Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China Ltd, the ARJ21's manufacturer, has taken 300 orders for the aircraft from 19 domestic and foreign clients.
COMAC plans to build 15 of the planes annually after the first are delivered, said Luo Ronghuai, its deputy general manager.
That annual output should increase by five to 10 aircraft per year, finally hitting a maximum of 50, Luo said.
Industry experts expect that the development of the ARJ21, and COMAC's C919 family of 158-174 seat narrow-body twin-engine jet airliners, will transform the country into a major aircraft manufacturing powerhouse.