The China Aviation Industry Corp I (AVIC I), one of the country's two biggest aircraft manufacturers, has said it would try to take 80 per cent of the regional jet market in China within two decades.
Chen Jin, deputy general manager of the subsidiary AVIC I Commercial Aircraft Ltd, said his firm would finish the overall design of the ARJ 21 regional jet by June 30.
The new-generation jet comes in 79-seat and 99-seat models. It is Chinese-designed and so the intellectual property rights to it are owned by China.
"We expect to conduct trial flights by 2005 and sell the jets by 2007 to compete in the rapidly growing domestic regional jet market," Chen said.
Demand for the ARJ 21 aircraft will amount to 500 planes over the next 20 years, he said.
"We are now trying to obtain the first 35 regional jet orders from domestic airlines by the end of this year," he said.
Companies such as Shandong Airlines, Shanghai Airlines, Wuhan Airlines and Yunnan Airlines are expected to become the first group of clients for the new jet, Chen said.
Experts from the industry and from the General Administration of Civil Aviation of China said that the current reform and consolidation of the Chinese airline industry must lay a solid foundation for the rationalization of the country's airline networks.
They said the central government's decision to develop western China and the success of Beijing's bid to host the 2008 Olympics will open up new opportunities for the regional aviation market.
The General Administration of Civil Aviation of China predicted that, during the 10th Five-Year Plan period (2001-05), China will require between 110 and 140 regional jets - aircraft with 50 to 110 seats and a range of between 600 kilometres and 1,200 kilometres.
Transport by regional jets will become a new growth area in China's civil aviation industry, the General Administration of Civil Aviation of China said.