Comac's ARJ21 regional jet is unlikely to receive certification until at least late next year, according to sources.
This means the programme, which started about 11 years ago and originally had first delivery scheduled for 2007, will again be delayed.
At Airshow China in Zhuhai in 2012, chief designer Chen Yong said the aim was for the ARJ21 to receive certification from the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) in the first half of 2013, and to deliver the jet to launch customer Chengdu Airlines in 2014. Thereafter, it could take up to two years before the aircraft was validated by the US Federal Aviation Administration, he added.
Progress, however, has been slow, because the inexperienced airframer continues to work with the CAAC, which is certificating a commercial jet for the first time, and is unfamiliar with the process, sources say.
It is understood that the ARJ21 has completed about 70% of the validation tests scheduled, and about 60% of flight tests necessary - so, it is almost impossible for the jet to be certificated this year. Publicly, the airframer said the ARJ21 passed several major milestones this year, including stall tests and minimum unstick speed tests - two high risk and critical tests of the programme.
The slow progress of the ageing ARJ21 has largely been attributed to the five-year-old airframer's lack of experience and small talent pool.
Comac has so far garnered 252 commitments for the ARJ21, mostly from Chinese airlines and leasing companies.
Comac will miss a target to fly its C919 158-seat narrowbody airliner in 2014, industry sources familiar with the Chinese program tell Aviation Week.
The first flight now is scheduled for the second quarter of 2015, says one industry source with detailed knowledge of the program.
According to the new plan, Comac will roll out the aircraft in December 2014, says the source.The manufacturer still is aiming to achieve its target of a first delivery in 2016—but only just. The specific aim is now December of that year.
The first flight has been delayed by up to a year from a previous, unannounced target of June 2014.
Program managers had scheduled at least two years for flight testing. They now have about 18 months for testing, closer to the time allocated for flight tests by Western manufacturers.
The C919’s new schedule more closely matches the timetable for its engine. The CFM Leap-1C engine is due to be certified in June 2015, although the Civil Aviation Administration of China could permit C919 flight testing before the engine is certified.
The first Leap-1C should go into testing in the fall of this year, or at least no later than the fourth quarter.
Comac, a government agency registered as a company, made the decision to reschedule months ago, say three industry sources.
The delay is no surprise. The C919, launched in 2008, began to miss schedule targets as early as the supplier selection and contracting stage.