Crew members take photos before an ARJ21 jet of OTT Airlines leaves Shanghai for Beijing on Monday. (Photo/China News Service)
OTT Airlines, a new subsidiary launched by China Eastern Airlines to push China's homegrown aircraft to more markets, started its first commercial service on Monday with an ARJ21 jet operating between Shanghai and Beijing.
The company will be operating a Chinese-manufactured fleet of aircraft including the ARJ21 regional jet and the C919 narrow-body planes made by State-owned aerospace company Commercial Aircraft Corp of China.
Set up in February, OTT Airlines received the necessary certificates for operating large aviation aircraft on Friday. With a passenger load factor of more than 90 percent, the ARJ21 aircraft took off at 2.33 pm from Shanghai Hongqiao International Airport and arrived at Beijing Capital International Airport an hour and 50 minutes later.
"We will launch flights from Shanghai Pudong International Airport to Beijing Daxing International Airport, Nanchang in Jiangxi province, Hefei in Anhui province, and Wenzhou in Zhejiang province, as our fleet continues to expand," said Zhai Zhigang, general manager of OTT Airlines.
According to Zhai, OTT Airlines will operate 35 ARJ21 jets by 2025, and China Eastern will become the first global carrier to take delivery of the homemade single-aisle passenger aircraft C919. According to the current schedule, China Eastern will induct the first C919 into its fleet around 2022.
Zhang Daqi, an experienced pilot who has flown six types of aircraft and has a flying time of more than 18,300 hours, was the captain of the maiden OTT flight.
The ARJ21 stands for Advanced Regional Jet for 21st Century. Like the C919 undergoing tests, the ARJ21 is a regional aircraft developed in accordance with international standards. The regional jets are equipped with state-of-the-art features and technology, according to Zhang.
"It attracts me in two ways. First, it is a lifelong pursuit of every Chinese pilot to fly a Chinese made aircraft, and second, every pilot who loves challenges and changes would like to fly the latest model," Zhang said.
After the delivery of first ARJ21 in June, OTT Airlines will add three more ARJ21s by the end of the year, six in 2021, and eight in 2022.
Headquartered at Shanghai Hongqiao International Airport, the carrier is responsible for accumulating experience in the commercial operation of Chinese manufactured aircraft and supporting the nation's homemade jets to fly in a broader aviation market, said Liu Shaoyong, chairman of China Eastern.
The development of China-made aircraft needs the participation of the whole Chinese aviation sector. Going by the civil aviation development experience in other markets like the United States, there would be great potential for OTT Airlines and China-made aircraft, said Chen Zhuo, a senior analyst with China Merchants Securities.