This article from Reuters examines some of the problems that have been plaguing China’s civil aircraft program, and are causing delays t0 its plans for entry into service of the COMAC ARJ21 and C919 passenger jets.
The report sheds an (unofficial) light on the issues that have been affecting the ARJ21, the most prominent of which is the wing crack problem that was discovered during stress tests in 2010. However, later examinations also uncovered problems with wiring as well as malfunctioning avionics a “system integration problem.”, said suppliers.
The biggest question is whether and to which extent these issues will impact the development of the C919, the 160-seat jet that is positioned as a competitor to the A320/B737. In May COMAC’s CFO Tian Min stated the C919 was still on track for a 2014 maiden flight and airworthiness approval from the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) in 2016, as scheduled. This is in stark contrast with a US-based aerospace consulting group’s estimate of a 3 year potential delay due to the fact that resources required for the design of the C919 are allocated to fixing the ARJ21′s problems instead. Such a delay would severely impact the C919′s ability to compete with re-engined versions of the B737 and A320. We will be closely watching COMAC’s progress.