After nearly 15 years in development, COMAC C919 jetliner is expected to make its first commercial flight this Sunday, May 28, with China Eastern Airlines, the only airline to have it in the fleet for now.
With capacity for 164 passengers, the aircraft is the most advanced ever developed in China for the civilian market and designed to be a competitor to the widely popular Airbus A320 and Boeing 737.
See also: C919 completes its first revenue flight
The debut flight will be MU9191, which will depart Shanghai at 10:45 am and land in Beijing at 1:10 pm. The return flight (MU9192) will take place in late afternoon on Sunday, according to China Eastern’s app.
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So far, only the C919 with registration B-919A has been delivered by COMAC, in December last year. Weeks after that, China Eastern began a schedule of evaluation flights to complete 100 hours of testing with no passengers on board.
The flights continued until February, but then the C919 remained on the ground for long periods until on May 17 it took off again and since then it has been used almost uninterruptedly, an indication that the Chinese carrier is finalizing the tests.
Chinese jet, foreign components
The C919 was launched by COMAC in 2008 with an ambitious mission to compete with western aircraft in the higher production volume category.
The aircraft follows the classic configuration of a single-aisle jet, with rows of six seats, low wings that carry the engines and a conventional tail.
The look is very reminiscent of the A320 to the point of being called the “Chinese Airbus”.
Although developed in China, the C919 relies on a wide range of western suppliers. Companies such as CFM (Leap-1C engines), Honeywell, Rockwell, Eaton, Parker and Michelin are part of the list.
Foreign content, however, has been a potential issue as the Chinese government’s relations with the United States have deteriorated.
COMAC is working on the nationalization of several of these components, including turbofans, but development is quite behind schedule.
Although it has more than 1,200 purchase intentions, the C919 officially has five aircraft on order from China Eastern and, more recently, 60 firm orders from the HNA group.