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Comac set to deliver China's first passenger jets

SHANGHAI -- A state-owned aircraft maker said Wednesday it is ready to deliver China's first homegrown regional airliner and should complete a bigger plane in 2018.

The first two of the ARJ21-700 regional jets have been completed for a Chinese carrier, Chengdu Airlines, and are coming to the end of the certification process, according to Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China Ltd. The company said it has 252 orders.

China launched the ARJ21 project in 2002 in an attempt to break into the Western-dominated aircraft market. The plane was promised for 2007 but delivery was pushed back due to technical problems.

China is expected to become one of the world's biggest aircraft markets over the next two decades. Boeing Co. forecasts total demand at 5,580 planes worth a total of US$780 billion.

The ARJ21-700 can seat 78 to 90 passengers depending on its configuration, with a range of 2,225 to 3,700 kilometers (1,300 miles to 2,300 miles). Comac said it successfully completed test flights in North America in March and April and has flown 13,000 kilometers.

The company is targeting China's domestic market and flights to Southeast Asia.

“We first want to develop our business in China and then gradually we will go to the international market,” Comac executive Tian Min told reporters at Comac's assembly and manufacturing center in Shanghai.

Comac's larger C919 is a single-aisle jet meant to compete with Boeing and Airbus Industries. It can seat up to 168 passengers and has a planned range of 4,000 to 5,100 kilometers (2,500 to 3,200 miles).

The C919 is an official initiative “for China to re-capture the value in aircraft manufacturing that currently goes offshore to Airbus and Boeing,” said industry analyst Will Horton of CAPA Centre for Aviation. “With such a large objective, accomplishments will come gradually.”

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Workers put the finishing touches on a COMAC ARJ21-700 at a final assembly and manufacturing center in Shanghai , China, Wednesday, May 21. (AP)

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