China’s First Commercial Trunk Liner to Enter Skies by Mid-2017

C919 aircraft. Credit: Comac

C919 aircraft. Credit: Comac

The Comac C919, a narrow-body twin-engine jet is expected to make its first flight by mid-2017 as reported by the People’s Daily last week. The aircraft is built by the Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China (Comac). It is completely the country’s own design and built aircraft.

The Comac C919 is a short-medium range commercial aircraft. The standard version will cover a range of 4,075 km, while the enhanced version can fly upto 5,555 km. The economy class layout will have 174 seats, whereas the hybrid layout will be having 158 seats. the Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China Ltd. claims that the economic life of the plane is designed to be 90,000 flying hours/30 calendar years. Comac C919 was first unveiled in November 2015, at a roll-out ceremony in Shanghai. Its first maiden flight is delayed by almost two years due some issues related to production, which the company has not revealed.

Comac says this narrow-body twin engine jet is aimed to compete with the  Airbus A320neo, Boeing 737 MAX, Bombardier CSeries, Irkut MC-21. In short with all the major single aisle popular commercial jets. This is China’s very serious attempt to establish itself as a global supplier of aircraft. The design and assembly of the aircraft is done at the Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China’s Shanghai facility.  Though at present foreign-made jet engines (CFM International’s LEAP-1C engine) and avionics is used in C919, China has expressed its strong desire and intent to produce a domestically made engine for it soon.

Though the C919 developers have still not announced the price tag for the plane, it is targeted at low-cost airlines as the major customers. The industry experts speculate the average price of about US$68 million for the basic version. The Boeing 737 MAX has unit cost of US$80.6–116.6 million and The Airbus A320neo has a range of US$75.1–125.7 million.

As per the 2016-2035 Global Market Forecast presented by Airbus, the Chinese airliners will need about 6,000 new jets worth $945 billion over the period of next two decades. With this kind of huge demand of planes Comac C919 is likely to give it a real tough time for Western manufacturers on their own homeground.

COMAC has received 570 orders for the C919 passenger jet from 23 customers with China Eastern Airlines becoming the launch customer for the plane.

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