China will need to add 630 regional jets each with 30 to 120 seats to its air fleet in the next 20 years, a source with the China operations of Empresa Brasileira de Aeronautica SA (Embraer), a major short-haul airliner supplier for China, said on Sunday.
Guan Dongyuan, managing director of Embraer China, said his company believed China will demand more regional jets, which amount to only 72 at present, or 7.2 percent of the country's total aircraft fleet of 1,024.
The Brasil-based Embraer entered the Chinese market in 2000 and launched a joint venture named Harbin Embraer Aircraft Industry Co Ltd two years later with a local airplane manufacturer in Harbin, the capital city of Northeast China's Heilongjiang Province. The venture, producing the ERJ 145 short-haul planes, was the first joint venture between China and a world leading civil aircraft maker to manufacture complete planes.
China is also producing domestically-developed, mid-size, short-haul airliner dubbed the ARJ-21. The regional jet is expected to roll out of the workshop at the end of the year, said Luo Ronghuai, general manager of AVIC I Commercial Aircraft, a subsidiary of China Aviation Industry Corporation I (AVIC I), the developer.
The ARJ-21's maiden flight is scheduled for March 2008 and mass production will begin in 2009, said Luo.
Chinese experts said the ARJ-21 has given China a late but powerful presence in its own commercial aviation market, which until now has been dominated by foreign aircraft manufacturers such as Boeing and Airbus.
The project is also seen as preparation for China's own big jet (with more than 150 seats) project, an undertaking that has been shelved for about 30 years. Chinese experts say they need two decades to produce a big plane.