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[BEIJING] Chinese aircraft builder Comac won approval from the nation's aviation regulator to start mass production of its homemade ARJ21 regional jet, paving the way for deliveries to customers.
The Civil Aviation Administration of China issued production certificates Sunday for the 90-seater Advanced Regional Jet, state-owned Commercial Aircraft Corp of China Ltd, or Comac, said in a statement, adding it aims to deliver five planes by the end of this year.
The ARJ21, which took more than a decade to design, build and bring to market, has been flying since June last year. With a maximum range of about 3,700 kilometers, it aims to compete with models made by Bombardier Inc and Embraer SA. The government-owned plane maker successfully completed the maiden test flight of the C919, a single-aisle passenger jet designed to seat as many as 174 passengers.
China's aircraft development is part of an ambitious "Made in China 2025" program under President Xi Jinping, who has identified aerospace among industries that could vault the nation into the league of Germany and Japan in technological and manufacturing prowess.
The small jet, powered by General Electric Co's engines, has raked in 413 orders from 19 clients. China Aircraft Leasing Group Holdings Ltd, a Hong Kong-listed company, agreed last year to purchase 60 ARJ21s in a deal worth about US$2.3 billion at list prices. Comac still needs to get relevant certificates from the US Federal Aviation Administration and European authorities to be able to sell and operate the plane overseas.