China's first home-built passenger airplane could take a big step forward this month

The state-run company's C919 aircraft could soon perform its first commercial flight.
Chris Young
Comac C919.
Comac C919.


China's homebuilt single-aisle passenger jet, the C919, was designed as part of the country's bid to provide strong competition to France-based Airbus and U.S.-based Boeing's airliner monopoly.

The C919 aircraft could be certified by Chinese regulators as early as September 19, according to Bloomberg, which picked up on reports by local media outlets. The date was reportedly chosen, in part, as a reference to the model type.

China's first home-built airliner nears flight certification

China has made great strides in the aerospace industry of late, having recently announced three new missions to the moon to investigate a new lunar mineral discovered by its Chang'e-5 rover. Now the country aims to break up the long-held duopoly of Boeing and Airbus with its new airliner model.

The C919 is built by the Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China, or Comac, and the announcement of an airworthiness certificate is expected shortly after data from FlightRadar24 showed two of the airliners landing in Beijing on Tuesday, September 13. It was their first visit to the capital's airport, and they were accompanied by ARJ-21 jet, which is already operational and flight certified.

When certification is granted, it will mean the end of a 14-year development journey and the start of commercial operations for Comac's C919. The first test flight of the C919 took place in 2017. Plans to deliver the first plane by 2021 were postponed, though, due to issues during the certification process. The upcoming flight certification date was first reported by the China Times and was later verified by Reuters.

Last year, we reported that China Eastern Airlines had made an order for five C-919 jetliners. It will be the first carrier to operate the aircraft commercially, and it expects to use them for domestic flight routes connecting Shanghai and other major cities including Beijing, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Chengdu, Xiamen, Wuhan, and Qingdao.

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Is the C919 the 'fulfillment of a Chinese dream?'

All in all, Comac has several hundred orders for the C919 from a number of Chinese airlines and lessors. China's homebuilt C-919 aircraft was built specifically to compete with the world's leading medium-ranged airliners, the Airbus 320 and Boeing 737.

COMAC is a state-run company. It was founded back in 2008 with the specific goal of producing China's first commercial passenger jet. In the 1970s, Chairman Mao set the same goal, though it was never achieved.

The C-919 has 158 to 168 seats, depending on the configuration, and it has a maximum range of approximately 3,450 miles (5,555 km). A Bloomberg report around the time of the aircraft's 2017 maiden flight cast assertions that the aircraft is fully made in China into doubt. The report claimed the C919 features German landing gears, Franco-American engines, and Austrian-made interiors. Nevertheless, Chinese state media described the airliner's first flight as "another fulfillment of a Chinese dream."

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