Comac C919 Completes First Flight

John McDermott

The C919 lifts off for its first flight. Source: COMAC

The COMAC C919, China’s first Jet Airliner, made its first successful test flight last Friday. With this jet, COMAC, the Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China, hopes to join the duopoly of Boeing and Airbus in becoming a trusted aircraft manufacturer. The plane’s first flight puts China towards the top of the list of nations that have developed and flown large homegrown airliners, along with the U.S., Russia, Brazil, Canada, the U.K., France, and Germany.

The plane’s first flight came almost a year late due to multiple setbacks experienced during production. COMAC plans to release the model in 2019 or 2020, meaning that it could be almost three years before it carries any passengers other than crew members.

The C919 is a single-aisle, narrow-body, twin engine airliner. It has 168 seats. Its wingspan (without winglets) is 110 feet, 3 inches. With winglets, its wingspan is 116 feet, 3 inches. The aircraft’s engines are built by CFM International. The aircraft has a maximum range of 3450 miles. The plane is about the same size as both the Airbus A320neo and Boeing 787-8, two of the most successful airliners in the world. The C919 is the first major competitor for these models. In addition, Boeing estimates that airlines in China will need close to 6180 new aircraft in the next 20 years, which could be worth $1 trillion. The C919 gives COMAC a “home field advantage” in what could soon be the largest aircraft market in the world, according to newsmax.com.

“There is a lot riding in the C919. The expectation for the C919 is not to become the best-selling single-aisle aircraft in the market, but rather become a stepping stone for COMAC to build something better,” said Xu Yongling, a Chinese military test pilot.

The introduction of a new aircraft manufacturer can mean a lot for consumers. Though airlines and passengers are often likely to fly aircraft with a successful track record for reliability and safety, the C919 can drive down aircraft prices when it enters the market, which could lower ticket prices for passengers. COMAC is already seeking certification in Europe. It probably won’t be long before the manufacturer reaches out to agencies in the U.S. to gain certification there.

COMAC has already received close to 600 orders for their new plane. Though most of the orders come from Chinese-based carriers, 20 come from GE Capital Aviation Services, a U.S. based aircraft lessor. There is a lot of optimism for the success of the C919, but only time will tell how the C919 compares with pre-existing aircraft giants.

Hub contributor Nick McGowan recently published another article on C919 testing. Click here to read it.