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Chinese Boeing 737 and Airbus A320 competitor completes first pre-delivery test flight in Shanghai ahead of customer handover

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China’s C919 jet has completed its first pre-delivery test flight in Shanghai, bringing its maker one step closer to offering a replacement for the Boeing 737 and Airbus A320 single-aisle commercial jets in the global aviation market.

The Commercial Aircraft Corp of China (Comac) conducted a three-hour test flight at Shanghai’s Pudong International Airport on Saturday morning, according to a statement posted on its website.

“This marked a successful test flight of the first C919 aircraft prior to delivery to the first customer,” Comac said. “The flight test accomplished all of the intended tasks, and the aircraft performed well and was in good condition.”

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The successful test flight is a boost for state-owned Comac, which has received 28 customer orders for up to 815 C919 jets, according to its website. The test showed how determined Shanghai authorities are to get business operations back on track, after sending the city ​​in lockdown since April 1.

The official launch of Comac’s C919 on November 2, 2015 in Pudong, Shanghai. Photo: Chen Xiao alt=Official launch of Comac’s C919 on November 2, 2015 in Pudong, Shanghai. Photo: Chen Xiao>

As many as 3,000 Comac staff worked under “closed loop” conditions – where they had to undergo daily tests for Covid-19 and sleep on site to ensure no contact with strangers – to bring the aircraft in its flight-ready stage, the manufacturer said.

Shanghai local carrier China Eastern Airlines is set to take delivery of five of the C919 planes, purchased at list prices of $99 million each under a March 2021 deal. China’s third-largest carrier plans to use the new aircraft on routes inland from Pudong to Beijing, Guangzhou. Shenzhen and Chengdu, China Eastern said.

C919 components. Photo: Twitter alt=C919 components. Photo:Twitter>

China is one of the fastest growing civil aviation markets in the world, and the C919 is the country’s ambitious bid to manufacture its first commercial jetliner to meet its own growing demand.

The success of the project would be economically beneficial for China, as it could break the country’s dependence on the duopoly currently enjoyed by Boeing and Airbus, and has the potential to propel Comac into the multi-billion dollar aviation industry. .

The C919 was highlighted by President Xi Jinping in his 2017 report to the Chinese Legislative Assembly during the 19th National Congress, to serve as the engine of China’s “new pattern of development”, as well as other achievements scientists.

Comac began developing the C919 in 2008, but missed the previous deadline to deliver its first aircraft by the end of 2021.

While the C919 marks China’s effort to reduce its dependence on Airbus and Boeing, the aircraft still depends on foreign companies like General Electric and Honeywell for many critical parts.

As relations between Beijing and Washington DC have deteriorated, the US government has tightened its regulations on sales of aeronautical products to China, potentially adding obstacles to the development of the C919.

On January 14, 2021, the US Department of Defense added nine Chinese companies, including Comac, to its list of “Communist Chinese military companies”.

Under an earlier executive order signed in 2020 by then-President Donald Trump, U.S. investors were barred from certain transactions in securities related to certain listed companies. Comac is not a listed company, but it sold bonds in the Chinese securities market.

Earlier in 2020, the US government was considering whether to deny General Electric’s request to supply the LEAP engines for the C919. He eventually approved the license for jet engine sales after then-President Donald Trump said the United States should not stop companies from supplying jet engines and other components to China.

This article originally appeared in the South China Morning Post (SCMP), the most authoritative voice on China and Asia for over a century. For more SCMP stories, please explore the SCMP app or visit the SCMP Facebook and Twitter pages. Copyright 2022 South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.

Copyright (c) 2022. South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.

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