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China's top airlines receive domestically made ARJ21 aircraft

State-owned carriers including China Southern Airlines to introduce short haul 90-seater

The ARJ21 entered commercial operations four years ago and is China's first domestically manufactured airliner.   © Reuters

BEIJING/SHANGHAI (Reuters) -- China's three biggest state-owned airlines on Sunday took delivery of their first ARJ21 aircraft, a short haul 90-seater aircraft made by state-run Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China (COMAC).

COMAC said in a statement on Sunday that Air China, China Eastern Airlines and China Southern Airlines had received the aircraft, which has a 90-seat capacity, and would each take delivery of three ARJ21 aircraft this year.

Last August, the three carriers announced on the same day deals to each purchase 35 ARJ21-700 regional jets from COMAC, with deliveries scheduled from 2020 through 2024.

The ARJ21 entered commercial operations four years ago and is China's first domestically manufactured airliner.

COMAC has two other passenger jet programs in development -- the C919 narrow body aircraft program which is currently undergoing flight testing, and the CR929 widebody program in collaboration with Russia.

China Eastern Airlines earlier this year launched a subsidiary -- OTT Airlines -- to operate ARJ21 and C919 airliners. It is slated to be the first customer for the C919, once the 160-seater plane receives airworthiness certification from the Chinese aviation regulator.

The C919 is a much more high-profile program, that will place COMAC in direct competition with Airbus and Boeing in the single-aisle market. The United States earlier this year considered whether or not to block the sales of LEAP-1C engines to the program, but it later relented.

The impact of the coronavirus pandemic on international travel has decimated the order books of both Airbus and Boeing.

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