The controversial C919 program continues to collect frustrations for COMAC, its airframer, and the Chinese government.
The most advanced jetliner ever developed in the country, the aircraft still seems far from entering service, more than 10 years after the start of manufacturing the first prototype.
With six test aircraft participating in the certification program, COMAC’s expectation was to deliver the first C919 in December 2021 to China Eastern Airlines.
However, delays caused by the Covid-19 pandemic would have postponed the deadline. Four of the planes had not flown for months, stuck in Xi’an, a city that has been in lockdown since December 22.
Despite this, Wu Yongliang, COMAC’s deputy general manager and chief accountant, assured this week that the first C919 will be delivered in 2022 and that the work is evolving “in an orderly manner”.
According to AirInsight, the C919 still needs to complete 242 certification flights – until recently, prototypes had only performed 34 scheduled flights.
Leeham News, on the other hand, predicts that the Chinese commercial jet will only enter service between 2023 and 2024. According to outlet, the C919 is a heavy aircraft with a shorter range than its western competitors.
Like the Russian MC-21, China suffers from US embargoes on the use of Western components such as Leap-1C turbofans, but while UAC is already testing a variant with domestic PD-14 engines, COMAC does not have an similar option yet.
The CJ-1000A turbofan, developed by ACAE, is not yet ready and is accused of being reverse engineered.
Despite the numerous difficulties, it is certain that the Chinese government will not let the program perish as it is one of the pillars of the country’s industrial independence. With a local customers guaranteed not exactly by technical arguments, the C919 will hit the market better late than never.