ARJ21 takes off from world’s highest airport

ARJ21 taking off Daocheng Yading Airport

China’s first domestically developed regional jet, the ARJ21, on Thursday completed test flights at the world’s highest-altitude civilian airport in southwest China.

The ARJ21, developed by Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China (COMAC), began commercial operation with Chengdu Airlines in June 2016, and can now cover all high-altitude aerodromes around the world as the test flights have demonstrated.

The Daocheng Yading Airport which was opened in 2013 is 4,411 meters above sea level and considered a high plateau (high-altitude) airport.

Plateau airports refer to the airports with an elevation of greater than 1,500 meters. Those with an elevation of 1,500-2,438 meters are general plateau airports, and those with an elevation of 2,438 meters and above are high plateau airports.

Plateau airports have thin air, complex terrain and changeable weather, which place higher requirements on aircraft performance and operation supporting capability.

China has 19 high-altitude airports, the most in the world, and they are mainly located in western China.

According to COMAC, the operational needs of western China were fully considered, and high-altitude performance was taken as one of the most important design objectives for the ARJ21 aircraft.

Before the tests at Daocheng, the jet conducted test flights at the 2,842-meter-high Geermu Airport in June 2013 and the 2,905-meter-high Haixi Huatugou Airport in September 2017. Both airports are in northwest Qinghai Province.

The half-month long slew of flight tests, including take-off and landing capabilities in the high-altitude environment were fully verified, expanding the operating range of ARJ21 aircraft.

A statement from COMAC said that a solid foundation is now laid for the opening of plateau routes in the future.

Since the jet, which has a range of up to 3,700 kilometers, started commercial operations with Chengdu Airlines in June 2016, it has connected 56 domestic and international cities.

COMAC has so far delivered 33 ARJ21s to Air China, China Eastern, China Southern, Chengdu Airlines, Jiangxi Air, Urumqi Air and Genghis Khan Airlines. About 600 ARJ21s are on order from over 20 domestic and international customers.