New Chinese airliner, First C919 delivered in China

Aircraft registration B-919A took off from COMAC facilities in Shanghai to be received by China Eastern Airlines

China’s most advanced commercial aircraft, the twin-engine C919 had the first example delivered on Friday. The jet registration B-919A took off from Shanghai Airport, where the COMAC factory is located, to be received by China Eastern Airlines at Hongqiao Airport.

Developed since 2008, the C919 is a Chinese equivalent of the Boeing 737 and Airbus A320, with capacity for 164 passengers in two classes, in the configuration adopted by China Eastern.

The carrier, one of the largest in the country, is so far the only customer to place a firm order for the C919, with five units expected to be delivered. Originally, those planes would fly on the low-cost subsidiary OTT Airlines, but plans changed, perhaps as a way to encourage domestic product on more prime routes.

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Despite this achievement, the C919 program is still at serious risk of disruption due to its heavy reliance on Western suppliers. The engines, for example, are the Leap 1-C produced by CFM, while much of the avionics is provided by Collins Aerospace, among others.

China is developing domestic alternatives, but so far these products have not reached mass production conditions.

C919 main cabin (Weibo)

Hundreds of guaranteed orders

It is likely that the first years of operation of the C919 will only serve for the aircraft to gain mileage in order to improve its performance and production processes – COMAC has just received mass production certification.

Although it is considered technically inferior to its western counterparts, the C919 is a much cheaper aircraft, which, added to the state incentive, should guarantee hundreds of aircraft produced in the coming years. Certainly, Airbus and Boeing sales in China will not be the same a few years from now.

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