China's homemade regional jet gets licence to fly

SHANGHAI - China's homemade ARJ-21 airplane has received permission to fly from the country's civil aviation regulator, the official China Daily reported Wednesday, after years of delays due to technical shortcomings.

The Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China Ltd (COMAC), which makes the twin-engined craft, began formal work on the airworthiness certification process in 2003 but approvals were repeatedly pushed back due to flaws in the aircraft's wiring, computer systems and wings, including wings that cracked during one stress test, Reuters reported earlier.

The Shanghai Daily however reported separately that the airworthiness certification itself was not the end of the process for the aircraft.

The paper quoted Luo Ronghuai, vice president of the Civil Aviation Administration of China, as saying that additional work on improving the model's design, systems and operations was required before it entered the market. It did not provide further details.

The Chinese government has been pushing hard to develop its own commercial aircraft, both to serve the burgeoning domestic market for planes - currently dominated by foreign players - and for export.

The ARJ-21 was to be the first step in this process, competing with regional jets sold in China by Embraer and Bombardier.

It is also developing the larger C-919 widebody plane to compete with similar offerings from Airbus and Boeing .

However, Chinese airlines have historically been reluctant to buy any airplanes made domestically, even those made through joint ventures with foreign manufacturers.

Analysts say despite claims in state media that the planes were "100 percent" domestic in content, both the ARJ-21 and the C-919 rely on a significant amount of sophisticated foreign components, including avionics and engines.