Single C919 jetliner delivered returns to flying in China after two months

COMAC aircraft was delivered to China Eastern Airlines in December but has yet to enter revenue service

China Eastern Airlines’ commercial jet COMAC C919 returned to flight on May 17 after a long period of inactivity.

The aircraft, registration B-919A, is the only one that has been delivered so far and was expected to start revenue flights at the end of April.

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But state-owned COMAC appears to have encountered several problems during validation flights with China Eastern. The C919 had not flown since March 23, according to FlightRadar24 records.

The aircraft pause was first noticed by Air Current and confirmed by ADN.

China Eastern had established a 100-hour evaluation flight program that began in December, shortly after the aircraft was handed over in a grand ceremony.

The schedule was supposed to be completed in February, but after that the B-919A jet only made three flights, with two takeoffs from Shanghai this Wednesday.

China Eastern ordered five C919 (CEA)

Under threat of sanctions

With 164 seats, the C919 is China’s most ambitious commercial aircraft to date. Its project was completely developed by COMAC, unlike the regional jet ARJ21, which is based on the old MD-90, from McDonnell Douglas (currently Boeing).

Its dimensions make it very close to the A320 to the point of being called “Chinese Airbus”, but the C919 does not use composite material structures at the same levels as its western rival.

The aircraft is equipped with Leap 1-C turbofans, supplied by CFM (GE and Safran) and which are also used by the Boeing 737 MAX and the Airbus A320neo. However, it is said that the C919 would be less efficient – official data is not shared by COMAC.

The Leap-1C turbofan on C919 (Nexcelle)

On the other hand, the C919 would be much cheaper than its competitors and has invaluable support, the Chinese government, which is the one who determines which aircraft the country’s carriers should order.

Series production not only suffers from technical problems, but risks that Western suppliers will stop shipping their components and thus delay deliveries even further.

The US and Chinese governments have strained relations and there are accusations of industrial espionage that would be helping the development of similar local engines and avionics.

Political issues aside, the return to the skies of the C919 B-919A is believed to be a sign that entry into service is indeed closer.


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