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Chinese aircraft makes maiden flight, seeks to rival Boeing and Airbus

A China Eastern Airlines Airbus A330-243 is seen at gate at Los Angeles International Airport on April 24, 2021. (Daniel Slim/AFP/Getty Images/TNS)
July 01, 2023

Built to rival Airbus System Engineer and Boeing, a Chinese-manufactured aircraft recently conducted its maiden commercial flight.

Almost six months after being delivered to China Eastern Airline Corporation, Flight MU9191 carried a reported 128 passengers and landed in Bejing after taking off from Shanghai at 10:32 a.m. local time. 

According to Bloomberg, the maiden flight highlights a long process for Commercial Aircraft Corp of China LTD., which is known as Comac. The manufacturer originally began developing the narrow-body airliner in 2008, with production commencing in late 2011. The C919 received official certification to fly in September 2022, marking the conclusion of flight testing and leading the way for Comac to begin deliveries.  

China Eastern placed an order for five of the aircraft, marking C919’s official launch customer. Following the initial jet’s delivery in December 2022, the aircraft undertook a period of near-daily flight activities to satisfy the 100 hour requirement of proven flights. 

READ MORE: Boeing’s China orders dry up on US tensions in boost for Airbus

China is positioning itself to disrupt the dominance of Boeing and Airbus in the commercial jetliner manufacturing industry. Both Boeing’s 737 Max jets and Airbus’s A320neo are fully booked with orders through the end of the decade, which means that any carrier wanting or needing narrow-body jets sooner will probably need to seek an alternative. 

Comac has reportedly received more than 1,000 orders for the C919; however the majority have not been confirmed. Additionally, a noticeable quantity of the orders are from Chinese aircraft lessors who have not yet placed the jet with an airline. 

Doubts still exist over Comac’s genuine ability to fulfill those orders, as the Chinese aircraft manufacturer is currently still reliant upon foreign suppliers, such as General Electric.  

Just last week, one of the nation’s largest carriers, Shanghai-based China Eastern, stated during its earnings call that it has plans of bringing all five C919s into its current fleet by 2023. 

The aircraft remains certified only for flying within Chinese borders, while European certification is underway. Each of the new aircraft will cost approximately $99 million before bulk order discounts are made available to airlines.