Malaysia's Sarawak state government is eyeing the ARJ21-700 as a potential fleet addition for MASwings (MY, Kota Kinabalu), which it is attempting to take control of from Malaysia Aviation Group and turn into a Sarawak-based carrier.

The Edge Malaysia outlet reported on Sarawak's Minister of Transport Seri Lee Kim Shin canvassing the possibility during a regional roadshow by COMAC that saw the ARJ21 fly into Kuching on March 13. Lee said the type aligned nicely with the government's plan to offer its citizens cost-effective flights between cities in the region.

“The aircraft is very comfortable, it can easily be reconfigured to cater for different types of business models," he said.

Also in Kuching for the day were the local Chinese Consul General Xing Wei Ping, COMAC Vice President for Marketing Liu Yan, HEE Group CEO Sherman Hooi Foat, and assorted state politicians.

ch-aviation has reported on Sarawak's bid to establish a local passenger airline and its assertion that existing operators in Kuching, which include AirAsia, Batik Air Malaysia, Firefly, Malaysia Airlines, SKS Airways, MASwings, Scoot, Royal Brunei Airlines, and Indonesia AirAsia, are not adequately serving the needs of the local population. The government initially planned to lean on local general aviation carrier Hornbill Skyways to operate the proposed start-up before switching its focus to MASwings and persuading the Malaysian government to transfer ownership to it and fund the acquisition and launch costs through its Khazanah Nasional sovereign wealth fund.

Lee cautioned, however, that the Sarawak government would undertake a proper evaluation and study of the options before committing to any aircraft type.

COMAC has been stepping up its marketing in Southeast Asia, including having a large presence at the recent Singapore Air Show and conducting a C919 demonstration flight there. The ARJ21 in Kuching, B-3322 (msn105), was also on display in Singapore and since then has spent time at various airports in Viet Nam and Cambodia before ferrying to Sarawah via Kuala Lumpur Subang. It has since returned to Shanghai Pudong.