China is preparing to certify its answer to Boeing and Airbus this month.
The C919 commercial airliner, developed by the Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China (Comac) has already received orders from several domestic airlines and has been described as the realisation of “a Chinese dream”.
FlightRadar24, a real-time flight tracking service, identified two C919s landing at Beijing Capital International Airport in mid-September.
It will mark the end of a 14-year development cycle for the C919, interrupted by a 2017 certification issue and a global pandemic.
The C919 was purpose-built to compete with the Boeing 737 and the Airbus 320, two of the most prevalent medium-range commercial jets.
It features 158 or 168 seats for passengers, depending on the class, with the 38.9 metre-long plane having a maximum range of 5 555 kilometres.
While the C919 was designed and built in China, its make-up consists of several foreign components, including engines from CFL International, a Franco-American joint venture, Michelin tyres, and landing gear made in collaboration with German firm, Liebherr LAMC Aviation.
Next to its competition, Comac is in its infancy. While Boeing and Airbus have enjoyed a stable foothold in the passenger jet industry for many decades, Comac was only established in 2008 (Chairman Mao’s government briefly attempted to do the same, although it was never successful).
Orders for the Comac C919 airliner have been received from a number of domestic Chinese airlines, including Air China (5), China Eastern Airlines (5), China Southern Airlines (5), Grand China Air (15), and from international group, General Electric Capital Aviation Services (10).
In total, 169 firm orders for the C919 have been placed. China Eastern Airlines will be the first airliner to incorporate the C919 into its fleet.
The Shanghai-based firm will begin using the narrow-body jet on routes to major Chinese metropoles, including Beijing, Shenzhen, Guangzhou, and Chengdu, amongst others, according to Interesting Engineering.
The 72.5 thousand ton behemoths are priced competitively at $99 million, according to an IBA Aero report in May (the same report lists the Boeing 737 and Airbus 320 at $293 and $317 million respectively).
How quickly Comac can deliver the orders remains to be seen. Building and certifying passenger aircraft is a time-consuming and expensive process.
For example, Boeing reported a 31-plane monthly average in July this year, with the US firm reporting a bumper 51-plane month in June 2022.