The COMAC C919 vs Boeing 737 – An Aircraft Comparison

COMAC, the Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China, have touted their new C919 aircraft as the perfect match against the world-famous and very popular Boeing 737. But how does it actually compare on paper and will airlines be swayed by the Far East variant?

COMAC C919 vs Boeing 737-800. Photo: Wikimedia / Simple Flying

How will we compare the two aircraft?

Naturally, this comparison needs to have a few caveats before we can really dive in.

For one, there are multiple versions of the Boeing 737, and only one ‘real’ version of the C919, although there are extended-range variants on paper. So, in the spirit of fairness, we will match the C919 vs Boeing 737-800. This is based on the passenger capacity of 160 passengers and the fact that the 737-800 has been the most popular 737 model so far.

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COMAC C919 vs Boeing 737

Here is how they line up:

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C919737-800
Passengers168 (1-class) / 158 (2-class)160 (1-class) 184 (Max)
Length38.9 m / 127.6 ft39,50  m / 129 ft 7 in
Wingspan35.8 m / 117.5 ft34,32 (35,79) m / 112 ft 7 in (117 ft 5 in)
Height11.95 m / 39.2 ft12,57 m / 41 ft 3 in
Empty weight42,100 kg / 92,815 lb41.413 kg / 91.300 lbs
Range4,075 km / 2,200 nm –
ER: 5,555 km / 3,000 nm
2,935 nmi (5,436 km)

*Boeing 737-800 data source. COMAC C919 data source.

Passengers

A little bit of a surprise was the fact that the C919 was designed to carry more passengers in a default all-economy configuration that the Boeing 737-800. It is not clear why they want that extra row (or two), but for some airlines that little bit of a difference might make the C919 more attractive.

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We do know with the latest version of the 737 MAX 8, there is a 200 seater variant under construction for Ryanair. Whether or not the C919 will follow suit remains to be seen.

COMAC C919 loading
The COMAC C919. Photo: COMAC

Range

This is where the wheels start to fall off for the C919. If these reported range numbers are accurate, the C919 has a significantly shorter range than the Boeing 737 and might be a total deal-breaker for airlines considering the aircraft. Even an extended range version of the aircraft can’t match the default 737-800.

This problem seems to be caused the smaller fuel tanks on board the C919, and not from lack of power.

“The C919 has a relatively small maximum fuel capacity of 16,160 L (4,269 US gallons) when compared to both the A320 and 737-800, whose figures stand at 24,210 L (6,400 US gallons) and 26,020 L (6,975 US gallons), respectively, leading to an inferior range of 2,200 nm for the standard variant and 3,000 nm for the extended range variant, both of which are short of the A320’s range of 3,300 nm.”Aspire Aviation.

That being said, perhaps in the long development cycle of the aircraft, COMAC has managed to increase the fuel capacity and thus the range of the aircraft.

Will airlines choose the C919 over the Boeing 737?

To answer this question, it’s best to split airlines into two groups. The first, Chinese Airlines, are fully behind the C919 and have already placed 295 orders and over 700 options for the aircraft. Whilst we could chalk this up to patriotism for their own aircraft, it is more likely that the Chinese government ‘encouraged’ the orders (all Chinese airlines are actually partially owned and funded by the government, so it’s more likely that the orders are gifted aircraft).

C919 landing
Over 800 orders have already been placed. Photo: COMAC

On the other hand, only one western firm (not an airline) has ordered the aircraft. GE Capital Aviation Services, the firm that is selling COMAC the engines for the C919, has ordered 10 aircraft and has 10 options. These aircraft are likely to be used as demonstrator models and allow GE to develop better engines for future versions of the aircraft.

But an article by Bloomberg has rightly pointed out that the current ‘troubles’ that Boeing is facing with their 737, and production delays with the alternative A320 series could open the flood gates for airlines to consider the C919. If the C919 gets the right approval and a Western or Middle Eastern airline interested, then we could see COMAC’s order book fill up.

What do you think? Which aircraft is better? Let us know in the comments.

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Richard

This may be out of date, but my understanding is that the C919 does not have international certification. This might explain it’s specification as an internal aircraft for Chinese airlines.

Christian

Despite of the issues Boeing is currently working on, it would take a miracle for the c919 to be the top contender for any airline (at least not a western one) looking to replace a 737 with something other than a MAX.

Marin

Wrong question 😉 … The best single aisle is anA320neo

Vince

The C919 has similar 6 abreast cabin layout. The 168 pax is on the C919 is high density configuration which is equivalent to the 184pax on the B737max8. The C919 is not lacking in power but lacking in lift. It’s MTOW is relatively low thus it is not able to… Read more »

Frank

Nicholas — seems like the ranges you have listed might be a little off – Boeing and Airbus have the Max 8 and A320 Neo listed at almost the same number: 3550 NM / 6570 Km and 3500 NM / 6500 Km. The ER Comac has a range of 3000… Read more »

Paul Proctor

You guys all forget, support is a major factor for a commercial jetliner. If the Russians haven’t figured it out yet I can’t believe the Chinese will. No Western airline is going to chance that. Then there’s reliability….

Smokerr

Why would you compare a 919 to an aircraft that is almost out of production ? (and only in production to fill orders for those who did not want to shift to the MAX at this time) Anyone considering a 919 (3 years form now if lucky) is going to… Read more »

RC20

AS P Proctor points out, to many do not consider the support (I do) – and support is a huge field of simulators, parts, expertise and reliability so you are not AOG in the first place. There is vastly more to this than just an air-frame (me too in this… Read more »

Cormac Champion

The “Ryanair” Max is actually a 199 seater, and this is substantially different to a 200 seater, in that you need 1 crew member for every 50 pax. So 199 pax still only need 4 x cabin crew whereas 200 pax would need 5 cabin crew

and93hil

Not all Chinese airlines are government owned. Hainan Airlines for example is completely privately held.

And the standard Version of the 737 800 has less range than the c919s ER Version. Only the standard A320 has more range than both versions of the c919

Andrew Heenan

Sorry, but it’s really not good enough to compare just these two without adding all the details of the A320, particularly as Boeing is a little out of the ordering options for a little while yet.
And especially when your key difference is range, where the A320 is a clear winner.

G J Harrison

Boeing(/McDonnell-Douglas) made a bad bet and is now paying a steep price. Rather than develop a new plane to replace one that dates back to the mid-1960s, Boeing cut corners and did not redesign an outdated plane that was too low to the ground to accommodate newer, bigger engines. The… Read more »