Comac to convert ARJ21 airliner into a freighter

Published: Tuesday, January 17, 2023

Chinese airframerComac has completed design work on a program to convert the ARJ21 airliner into a freighter.

The project to develop a freighter conversion variant of the ARJ21 commenced in May 2020, and involved preliminary and detailed design, aimed at understanding the modifications necessary.

Comac did not state when the first conversion will be undertaken, or when the converted aircraft will conduct its first flight. Nonetheless, it has two customers for converted ARJ21s: Zhongyuan Airlines and YTO Cargo Airlines.

Comac announced the program’s launch at a ceremony at the company’s Shanghai research & development center. The airframer has for around two decades envisaged a cargo role for the twin-engined regional jet.

The converted aircraft will have a commercial cargo capacity of 10t and be capable of carrying air freight containers – unit load devices – of various sizes, such as PMC, PAG, and AKE.

Its main cargo door will feature fully electric actuation, and the aircraft will feature a special fire suppression and air-conditioning system.

Cirium fleets data that there are 88 ARJ21-700s in service. It also lists a single ARJ21-700F freighter as being in storage, with the operator listed as YTO Cargo Airlines.

The ARJ21 freighter announcement follows the company’s unveiling of the ARJ21’s business jet variant, the CBJ, at Airshow China in Zhuhai in September 2021.