First commercial jet developed entirely in China, the COMAC C919 is cleared for mass production. The aircraft’s production certificate was issued on Tuesday by the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC).
The production certificate is the next step after approval for commercial flights of a new aircraft. The document proves that each airframe leaves the assembly line within the tolerances foreseen in the project.
The certification also guarantees that the manufacturing processes are properly implemented, such as the procedure for receiving raw materials, quality inspections, measurement methods and equipment calibration, among others.
In the case of the C919, the production certificate was issued just two months after the aircraft received CAAC approval for commercial flights, a very different situation for the ARJ21 regional jet.
The jet, also produced by COMAC, was released to fly with passengers in 2015, but only in 2017 did the manufacturer receive the production certificate.
In a statement, COMAC considered the production certificate an “important milestone” in the C919 program, which started in 2008 and faced several delays.
First delivery for China Eastern Airlines
The manufacturer is now preparing to deliver the aircraft’s first production plane to China Eastern Airlines, which has a firm order for five aircraft and purchase options for a further 15 C919s.
The Chinese jetliner has also been ordered by at least 30 Chinese airlines and companies. According to the manufacturer’s website, the C919 has more than 800 orders. However, COMAC still does not account for the 300 aircraft ordered by leasing companies made in early November during the Zhuhai air show.
The C919 is a narrow-body commercial jet and proposed to compete with the traditional Airbus A320 and Boeing 737, which are currently the best-selling passenger aircraft in the world.
According to COMAC data, the plane can accommodate up to 168 occupants and has a flight range of 4,075 km – COMAC is also working on the development of the C919ER, with an extended range of 5,555 km.
C919 still cannot be exported
COMAC’s new jet, for the time being, will operate restricted to the Chinese aviation market and in countries with close ties with Beijing. To export it, especially to operators in the West, the planemaker depends on the certification of international aeronautical bodies, such as the FAA, from the United States, and EASA, from Europe, which, by the way, has been working on validating the Chinese jet since 2017.
However, despite its slow development, the C919 comes to market with a highly competitive price. The aircraft is valued at around $50 million, well below list prices for the latest versions of the Airbus A320 and Boeing 737.