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China's C919, Challenger to Boeing 737, Aims for 2022 Deliveries

Feb 14,2022



Deliveries of China's homegrown C919 narrow-body passenger jet are expected this year after several delays, despite a tight schedule for regulatory certifications and uncertainties related to U.S. trade bans.


He Dongfeng, chairman of C919 developer Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China (COMAC), laid out the 2022 delivery schedule for the plane Monday in an internal meeting, according to minutes published by the state-owned aircraft maker.

The schedule is tight, and there are challenges from external uncertainties, according to He. The C919 is yet to be certified by Chinese aviation regulators, a precondition for its commercial launch.

COMAC initially planned to deliver the C919 in 2017, but the schedule was repeatedly delayed because of technology and supply issues.

Under development since 2008, the C919 targets the same market as the Airbus A320 and the Boeing 737, the two bestselling commercial aircraft. The plane is designed to seat 158 to 168 passengers.

The C919 made its first test flight in May 2017 with six prototype airplanes operating in different regions across China. Regulatory reviews for its airworthiness certification started in December 2020.

COMAC has received more than 800 provisional orders for the C919, mostly from domestic airlines or leasing firms. In March 2021, China Eastern Airlines signed a contract to buy five C919 jetliners in the first formal order placed by a global airline.

The airworthiness certification is a complicated task for both the jet developer and Chinese regulators, as it is the first of its kind conducted in China, according to Wang Yanan, an expert at the Chinese Society of Aeronautics and Astronautics. The reviews are especially challenging due to new technologies and materials used by the jet, Wang said.

There is still a huge amount of testing to be done for the C919 to be certified. By December 2021, the C919 had completed only 34 certification tests out of 276 planned, according to Yang Zhenmei, a Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) official.

The technology confrontation between China and the United States is also adding uncertainties for the aircraft. In December 2020, the Trump administration imposed additional licensing requirements on companies on its Military End-User List, affecting nearly 60 Chinese companies, including two COMAC subsidiaries. The list mainly restricts the export, re-export and transfer of products and technologies.

Shanghai Aircraft Manufacturing Co. (SAMC), one of the COMAC units on the list, is the general assembler of the C919. About 60% of the main suppliers to the C919 are American companies such as General Electric, Honeywell and Eaton Corp., according to a report by the Center for Strategic & International Studies, a Washington-based think tank.

Source£ļNIKKAI ASIA

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