Chinese 737 And A320 Competitor Moves Closer To Certification

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The COMAC C919 has moved closer to certification as the aircraft’s design has been finalized. The aircraft is designed to compete with the Boeing 737 MAX and Airbus A320neo families. However, it has currently mainly attracted interest from Chinese airlines.

COMAC C919, Certification, China
The COMAC C919 has moved one step closer to certification in China. Photo: Getty Images

For a long time, the short- and long-haul commercial aircraft industry has been dominated by two leading players: Airbus and Boeing. However, now a third company wants to enter the challenge. COMAC is designing two aircraft to confront the dupololy. These are the C919, designed for the short-haul market, and the C929 for the long-haul market.

Aircraft design finalized

The COMAC C919 took its first flight in May 2017. As a result, it had hoped to enter service in 2020. However, the program did face some setbacks. Indeed, the last of the six prototype aircraft to be built only took its first flight just under a year ago in late December 2019.

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However, according to Reuters, the Civil Aviation Administration of China has now issued a Type Inspection Authorization for the C919, meaning that no significant adjustments can now be made to the aircraft’s structure.

COMAC C919, Certification, China
The COMAC C919 completed its first flight in May 2017. Photo: Getty Images

The authorization received by COMAC lays the foundations for the aircraft’s final test flights. As such, the manufacturer is hoping to receive the type’s airworthiness certificate in 2021. This would mean that COMAC could start delivering the aircraft to Chinese airlines. However, it would have to fly domestically until other nations certified the type.

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Could the aircraft seriously challenge Airbus and Boeing?

COMAC will undoubtedly hope that its C919 can provide serious competition for the Airbus and Boeing duopoly in the short-haul aviation market. However, except for ten firm orders from the US-based GECAS and a canceled MOU for ten aircraft by Thai’s City Airways, the aircraft currently only has Chinese customers.

Currently, airlines would be hedging their bets on a new competitor when they are already comfortable with the designs from both Airbus and Boeing. However, one European airline has expressed interest in the type.

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COMAC C919, Certification, China
Ryanair has previously expressed interest in the COMAC C919. Photo: Getty Images

Could Ryanair operate the C919?

In 2011 Ryanair placed a memorandum of understanding for a 200 seat C919 variant from COMAC. Since then, very little has been said on the topic. However, in March, Ryanair Group CEO Michael O’Leary told Simple Flying that his airline was still committed to the COMAC program.

O’Leary added,

“All airlines and customers need to see the emergence of a third manufacturer to replace McDonnell Douglas and the Chinese would be a very welcome addition.”

Only time will tell if the COMAC C919 proves to be a success like the Boeing 737 MAX and Airbus A320neo with major orders outside of China.

Do you think the COMAC C919 will be a success? Would you fly on it? Let us know what you think in the comments!

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