The ARJ21, China's first homebuilt regional passenger jetliner, is undertaking three-day demonstration flights in Southwest China, to showcase its performance in plateau areas and further explore market opportunities in the region.
Between Tuesday and Thursday, ARJ21 will fly several routes between eight airports, including Kunming, Lijiang and Dali airports in Yunnan province. During the period, Commercial Aircraft Corp of China, its developer, also held a seminar with its customers to discuss the operations and potential of China's highland aviation regional market.
Triggered by growing demand, more domestic carriers are launching new flights connecting less-densely populated smaller cities to improve connectivity. Yunnan, with abundant tourism resources, has 15 civil airports in the province. It aims to achieve an annual passenger throughput of 150 million by 2030, according to the local government.
Last year, the passenger throughput of Yunnan reached 67.6 million. Changshui International Airport in Kunming, the provincial capital of Yunnan, is expected to become an international hub airport with multiple connections to Southeast Asian countries. Now the passenger throughput of the airport is ranked 35th globally.
"The ARJ21 is the first regional aircraft designed in accordance with the operating conditions of central and western China, and northern China. It has good high-temperature performance and anti-crosswind ability in high altitude, and it is particularly compatible with the takeoff and landing conditions of airports in Southwest China," COMAC said in a statement.
By the end of 2018, China had 36 high-altitude airports, which are mainly located in western China. The airports of Kunming, Lijiang, Lanzhou of Gansu province, and Xining of Qinghai province, account for more than 95 percent of the total traffic volume of plateau airports in China, according to the Civil Aviation Administration of China.
Chengdu Airlines, the first customer of the ARJ21, has launched more than 20 flights and transported more than 450,000 passengers with the aircraft model. Now, the airline owns 12 ARJ21.
Genghis Khan Airlines, the first regional airline of the Inner Mongolia autonomous region and the second customer of the ARJ21, made its first commercial flight from Hohhot to Ulaanhot with the aircraft on July 26. In five years, the carrier aims to own a fleet with 25 airplanes, it said.
"China is growing a regional aviation model with its own unique features, and the central and western parts of China have rich opportunities to develop regional aviation. The expansion of the regional aviation market and the socioeconomic development of the region will promote each other mutually," said Li Guijin, a professor at the Civil Aviation Management Institute of China.
Besides the ARJ21, aircraft manufacturers including Embraer of Brazil, Bombardier Inc of Canada, and Russia's Sukhoi, are major players in the regional aviation market.