China’s COMAC C919 single-aisle aircraft is nearly ready to take to the skies as it nears certification, said chief designer, Wu Guanghui.
Wu said the C919 narrow-body
airliner would be certified by the end of the year, according to the South
China Morning Post.
The C919 is China’s and the Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China’s (COMAC) attempt to become a major player in the airliner manufacturer industry.
The twin-engine airliner will compete directly with the Airbus A320 neo and the Boeing 737MAX once it receives an airworthy certificate.
Airbus European Manufacturing CEO, Guillarme Faure, is taking competition from the Chinese newcomer seriously.
Speaking at a question and answer
session in February, he said he and his colleagues were carefully observing
COMAC’s C919 project but could not speculate about the level of danger the C919
posed to Airbus’s market share.
East China Airlines has recently committed to purchasing five C919 airliners for an undisclosed sum.
The new arrivals to the East
China fleet will operate out of Shanghai’s Pudong Airport and fly to major
domestic locations including Beijing, Wuhan, Guangzhou, and Shenzhen.
The previous year has hit the airline industry particularly hard. For instance, Hong Kong carrier, Cathay Pacific, recently reported a net loss of $2.8 billion annual loss.
However, the outlook for China’s domestic commercial aviation market looks promising.
Boeing estimates that between
2020-2040 it will need to invest a further $1.4 trillion in aircraft to
accommodate new Chinese travellers.
COMAC wants to produce a jet engine for the C919 domestically. At present China is developing the CJ1000 turbofan jet engine specifically for the C919 and has recently outlined plans to complete the project in the next five years.
At present, COMAC relies heavily
on imported parts for its C919. Beijing wants to end reliance on the
foreign-made sophisticated parts crucial to construction, according to Reuters.
Beijing said it plans to develop a jet engine for wide-body crafts comparable to 787s or A380s. China and Russia have collaborated to develop the CR929 wide-body airliner which made a maiden flight in December last year – the first domestically manufactured jet-engine airliner voyage since the Soviet era.