COMAC delivered the first ARJ21 regional jet to a non-Chinese customer on December 18. Indonesia’s Transnusa Airlines received the first of what should be thirty ARJ21-700s on order, which marks the first time that an airline outside China will operate a COMAC airliner. Transnusa first non-Chinese airline to receive COMAC ARJ21.

Transnusa placed the order only thirteen months ago in November 2021. The airline is part of the Link Asia Group, which is partly owned by Hong Kong-based lessor China Aircraft Leasing Corporation. CALC confirms it has thirty ARJ21s on order plus another thirty as “intended order”, while it also has a Memorandum of Understanding for twenty C919s. Transnusa itself operates just two Airbus A320ceo’s and one A320neo on domestic routes only. The 95-seat ARJ21 will join them.

In its media statement about Transnusa, COMAC doesn’t hide that the delivery to the Indonesian airline is part of China’s “Belt and Road” policy to invest billions in other countries. “In recent years, COMAC has been actively preparing for aircraft to go to sea, closely focusing on the “Belt and Road” layout, deeply cultivating overseas markets, and carrying out pioneering and innovative exploration and practice in market cooperation, airworthiness certification, customer training, aviation material support, etc., so that the conditions for ARJ21 aircraft to go to sea continue to mature.”

Technical support is key

Essential to the success of the ARJ21 in Indonesia or any other country is the technical support COMAC will provide. The lack of an international infrastructure is often cited by analysts as a reason why the ARJ21 and C919 will find it hard to attract foreign operators if the types are certified by the national regulator in the first place. The first C919 was delivered to China Eastern Airlines on December 9.

COMAC says it will take support very seriously: “COMAC will always adhere to the customer-centric approach, provide customer service and operational support to Transnusa Airlines throughout the life cycle, and make every effort to ensure the safe and smooth operation of ARJ21 aircraft overseas. (…) While creating value for customers, COMAC will strive to integrate into the global civil aviation market, adapt to the global operation concept, management system and operating environment, and accelerate the construction of a world-class aviation enterprise.”

In September 2019, the Chinese regulatory agency CAAC and its Indonesian counterpart DGCA Indonesia concluded a working arrangement on the type certification of the ARJ21-700. After Indonesian authorities flight tested the aircraft, DGCA Indonesia granted the aircraft its validated type certificate in February this year. The ARJ21 was certified in China in December 2014.

The Republic of Congo reportedly signed for four ARJ21s back in 2014, but the status of this order is unconfirmed. GECAS ordered five aircraft back in 2008. The lessor has been acquired by AerCap last year, which shows the ARJ21 as ‘other’ aircraft in its backlog for delivery in 2026. This will depend on the aircraft receiving its international type certificate, which is most uncertain in the current geopolitical environment. The ARJ21 is in service by various Chinese carriers, including the Big Three.

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Active as a journalist since 1987, with a background in newspapers, magazines, and a regional news station, Richard has been covering commercial aviation on a freelance basis since late 2016.
In 2022, he has gone full-time freelance. Richard has been contributing to AirInsight since December 2018. He is also writing for Airliner World and Aviation News. From January 2023, he will add a part-time role with Dutch website and magazine Luchtvaartnieuws. Twitter: @rschuur_aero.

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