A technician works on the assembly line of the ARJ21 in Shanghai. [Photo by Yin Liqin / China News Service]
Genghis Khan Airlines, a newly established regional carrier in the Inner Mongolia autonomous region, will receive its first batch of domestically manufactured ARJ21 aircraft by the end of the year, and launch its first flight early next year.
The airline will become the second customer of the ARJ21－China's first home-built regional passenger jetliner－after Chengdu Airlines. Genghis Khan Airlines plans to establish a fleet of 25 ARJ21 aircraft within the next five years.
Commercial Aircraft Corp of China Ltd, the developer of the ARJ21, said this latest development shows that commercial use of the aircraft is being stepped up.
Genghis Khan Airlines signed an aircraft purchase agreement for ARJ21-700 aircraft with COMAC on Monday in Beijing. The two sides will also cooperate on airplane operations, skills development, services and maintenance, to meet the growing demand for air transportation in Inner Mongolia.
The establishment of Genghis Khan Airlines, which operates mainly from Hohhot Baita International Airport and is financed by Inner Mongolia Communications Investment (Group) Co Ltd, was approved by the Civil Aviation Administration of China in March.
The twin-engine ARJ21 has been in commercial use for more than two years and has transported over 160,000 people. With 78 to 90 seats, the aircraft has a flight range of 2,225 to 3,700 kilometers.
"The ARJ21 aircraft has great performance under ultra-low temperatures and it is suitable for takeoff and landing at plateau airports in western China, which is in line with the requirements of the aviation market in Inner Mongolia," said Hao Yutao, chairman of Genghis Khan Airlines.
"As the first regional airline of Inner Mongolia, we would like to help enrich the flight networks in the region, and we will mainly operate within the region," he said.
The ARJ21-700 is the first China-made jetliner designed for flying in western China. Inner Mongolia had been a major base for test flights of the aircraft.
With its vast territory, cities and towns in Inner Mongolia are scattered and far apart from each other. The region has so far established 28 civil airports, including 20 transportation airports, the highest number in China.
"China's regional aviation market is still in its initial stage of development. Most plateau airports globally are located in western China, and China is a great market with rich opportunities for the growth of the regional aviation sector," said Li Guijin, a professor at the Civil Aviation Management Institute of China.
Besides, COMAC said it would establish an aircraft maintenance center in Inner Mongolia. The center will initially provide maintenance services for the ARJ21. It will later provide services for the C919, China's first domestically manufactured single-aisle aircraft, which is expected to be put into use in 2021, and the widebody CR929, which is being jointly developed by China and Russia.