The first series-production C919 delivered to China Eastern Airlines began a test campaign that should accumulate 100 flight hours by February. The plan is to prepare the unprecedented Chinese jetliner to debut revenue flights from April 2023, explained the carrier.
The first check flight MU7801 took off from Shanghai Hongqiao Airport at 1:25 pm and landed at Beijing Airport at 3:17 pm local time.
The aircraft registered B-919A, delivered by the manufacturer COMAC on December 9, is configured with 164 seats, eight in business class (four seats per row) and 156 in economy (six seats per row).
According to China Eastern, the main cabin of the C919 is 2.25 meters high and equipped with 20 high-resolution 12-inch monitors.
The check flights do not carry passengers but simulate all stages of a commercial frequency, including the entire dispatch and release process, passenger boarding and maintenance, explained the airline.
The data accumulated during the almost two months of testing will be passed on to COMAC and CAAC, China’s civil aviation authority, which will then decide whether to issue the operational certificate, necessary for the start of commercial flights.
The test flights will depart from Shanghai Hongqiao Airport and will fly to airports such as Beijing Capital, Beijing Daxing, Chengdu Tianfu, Xi’an, Haikou, Qingdao, Wuhan, Nanchang, and Jinan.
China Eastern Airlines trained a first group of professionals to operate the C919, including nine pilots, 24 flight attendants and 13 ground staff.
The five C919s ordered will be used on routes between major Chinese cities such as Shanghai, Beijing, Xi’an, Kunming, Guangzhou, Chengdu and Shenzhen, which will serve as a showcase for the aircraft.
The C919 had its development started in 2007 and only made its maiden flight in 2017. Since then, several prototypes have shared the certification program, which ended up delaying considerably.
Similar in size to the Airbus A320 and the Boeing 737, the new COMAC jet is not quite as advanced as its rivals, but it should cause a reduction in demand for these Western aircraft in the coming years, as China’s main carriers prestige the national product.