China’s 737 MAX/A320neo Alternative The C919 Completes Another Test Flight

COMAC’s sixth C919 has taken its first flight. The Chinese challenger to the Boeing 737/Airbus A320 market is targeting full certification in 2021. This sixth aircraft is the last to be produced for the purposes of testing and took to the skies without visiting the paint shop.

COMAC, C919, First Flight
The sixth COMAC C919 has taken its first flight. Photo: Getty Images

The COMAC 919 is a narrow-body airliner being built in China. The aircraft took its first flight in May 2017 and is currently targeting first deliveries in 2021. The aircraft currently has 305 firm orders, primarily from Chinese customers. One notable customer is the American aircraft leasing company GECAS, who has 10 firm orders with 10 further options.

The COMAC C919

The COMAC C919 has been in the works for quite some time. The project was announced over a decade ago in 2008 with the production of the first aircraft beginning in 2011. COMAC’s first C919 rolled out of the hangar in 2015, taking to the skies for the first time in May 2017.

COMAC has now produced six airframes, with the most recent having just taken its first flight. China Eastern Airlines is expecting to be the launch customer of the aircraft. This delivery is expected to take place in 2021 following certification of the aircraft.

COMAC, C919, First Flight
The first COMAC C919 flight took place in May 2017. Photo: Ken Chen via Wikimedia

Boeing 737/Airbus A320 competition

The COMAC C919 is targetting the sector of the aviation industry currently filled by the Boeing 737 and the Airbus A320. However, should these two forces be worried? Airbus certainly shouldn’t worry as the Airbus A320neo is proving popular with airlines.

As far as Boeing is concerned, the outcome could depend on how the 737 MAX situation plays out. However, despite its grounding, the 737 MAX is still receiving orders. An indication that behind the scenes, things may not be as bad as they seem.

However, COMAC has a distinct disadvantage to both Airbus and Boeing. It is fairly unestablished. Many airlines have strong commercial relationships with both of the big aerospace manufactures. Something which COMAC just doesn’t have. This really shows in the orders that the aircraft has received, which mostly originate within China.

COMAC, C919, First Flight
Could the aircraft compete against the established Boeing 737 and Airbus A320 models? Photo: Kentaro Lemoto via Wikimedia

Of course, it’s impossible to predict the future. If the aircraft proves to be a success within China, airlines could start giving it a chance. If a larger customer from outside of China were to use the aircraft and find it a success, this could in theory prompt change.

What’s next for the C919 program?

Recently, it seems as though COMAC has really picked up the pace with the C919 program. In fact, in the past half a year, half of the current C919 fleet has taken its first flight. Now the onus of the company will be on certification of the aircraft and proving that it is a viable contender for its intended target market.

Do you think the COMAC C919 will be a success? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!