The COMAC ARJ21 is China’s attempt at the lucrative small commercial aircraft market, but how does it stand up against Brazil’s Embraer E190-E2 jet aircraft? Let’s compare the two and see which plane is better.
How will we be comparing the two aircraft?
We will be matching the two aircraft as if we were an airline looking to undertake regional routes within the planes’ specifications. While we will also consider passenger comforts, we will primarily look at capacity, range, and cost.
Also, we will be examining the E190-E2 (not other versions of the E2 Jet line such as the E195-E2) and likewise the ARJ21-700 (not the -900, which is the larger capacity version).
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ARJ21-700 vs. E190-E2
Here is how both aircraft stack up to each other:
- The ARJ21-700 can carry 90 passengers in one class (exit limit 100), or 72 passengers in two classes, over a range of 1,200 nautical miles (2,200 km) or 2,000 nautical miles (3,700 km) if using the extended range version. Source.
- The Embraer E190-E2 can carry 114 passengers in one class, or ‘around 100 in two classes’ (Embraer only lists one and three class options of 97 and 106 respectively). The aircraft can fly to a range of 2,850 nautical miles (5,278 km). Source.
Let’s look at each category more closely.
Right from the start, it’s obvious that the ARJ21 can’t carry as many passengers at the E190-E2. This might be because the E190-E2 is three meters longer than the Chinese counterpart.
- E190-E2 is 36.24 m (118 ft 11 in)
- ARJ21-700 is 33.46 m (109 ft 9 in)
More room means more seats and something that the E190-E2 can exploit. However, the E2 has a fascinating design choice of having its seats in a 2-2 configuration rather than the ARJ21-700 3-2 configuration.
This is because the E2 is only 2.74 meters wide, as opposed to the ARJ’s width of 3.14 m (10 ft 4 in). If a passenger is claustrophobic, the E2 might be a little too narrow for comfort. However, they will only have one seatmate next to them (or in business thanks to its staggered seating, none at all).
Embraer also wins with its range compared to the ARJ21 (even including its particular long-range version). This makes it a better choice and more flexible for airlines.
What about the cost?
Before we decide which is better, we should also examine the cost of the aircraft.
- ARJ21-700 has a list price of $38 million.
- E190-E2 has a list price of $60 million based on recent sales.
Thus it could be said that for the cost of a single Embraer E190-E2, an airline could get almost two ARJ21-700s. This would allow the airline to expand operations by almost double over the same length of time.
While one aircraft might be more fuel-efficient than another, it is hard to say without official independent figures of both aircraft’s performance over the same range. Until both aircraft are in the market and operated by non-Chinese airlines, a direct fuel comparison is hard to make.
Bottom line – which is better?
Looking at the numbers above it seems that an Embraer E190-E2, despite being more expensive, offers a more flexible platform for airlines. The range of the ARJ21-700 reflects its design as a plane made for China’s geography and doesn’t seem like it would be helpful for small countries looking to link with as many neighbors as possible.
Something that we didn’t touch on above was the fact that the ARJ21-700 is such a new aircraft, it doesn’t have worldwide support. Outside of China, an airline would have some difficulty finding parts and the right repairs. This is something to consider when looking at the ‘actual’ cost of the airframe.
What do you think? Do you disagree or agree? Let us know in the comments.