Tue, Jun 12, 2012
Agency Says Domestic-Made Airliners Have Design Flaws
Boeing and Airbus may not be looking in their respective rear-view mirrors quite so often ... at least not in the short term ... as the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) has delayed design approval for the ARJ21 Regional Jet due flaws in the design of several components and systems. And that delay could push back the planned entry into service of the 737-sized C919.
At the opening of the International Air Transport Association (IATA) meeting in Beijing, Comac officials told Reuters that it has discovered flaws in the wings, wiring, and computer systems of the ARJ21 over two years of testing. In one instance, a wing failed during a static test before reaching acceptable stress levels, and the avionics systems failed to work properly during some tests. Problems with the airplane's wiring were also discovered. The executives for three of the companies supplying components for the ARJ21 called the issues "system integration problems," but one observer said they were very uncomfortable in the interviews. The problems have been widely rumored in China, but have not been discussed publicly.
While the ARJ21 undergoes more tests, the Sydney Morning Herald reports that the problems with the regional jet will probably also mean delays in the entry into service of the C919, a 160 seat jetliner Comac hopes will compete with the B737 and A320 lines of airliners. One analyst, Richard Aboulafia of the Teal Group, said in published research that by the time the C919 is available to carry passengers, it will look obsolete next to the Boeing and Airbus products.
Comac still hopes for regulatory approval of the C919 by 2016. That would put it four years ahead of any re-designed A320 or B737 products ... if it can stay on schedule. Analysts say that the problems with the ARJ21 put that schedule in doubt.
And the FAA says accepting China's certification of the C919 is no foregone conclusion. The agency says a technical pilot assessment on the ARJ21 showing it meets U.S. airworthiness requirements before any certification of the larger C919 would be considered. FAA certification is considered critical to success in the international market.
Bloomberg Business News reports that Bombardier is assisting Comac in obtaining international certifications for the C919, which will share a common cockpit with its CSeries aircraft. Both companies hope to compete with Boeing and Airbus for a larger share of the single-aisle jetliner market. (Artists' renderings Top: ARJ21, Bottom: C919)
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