COMAC Eyes 2021 Certification For The C919

COMAC is aiming for a 2021 certification of its C919 aircraft, with deliveries starting by the end of the year. The news comes just weeks after the C919 made its maiden debut at an air show, signaling that it is moving closer to entering service. The aircraft is China’s response to the narrowbody market controlled by Airbus and Boeing, and hopes to end the current duopoly.

China's COMAC C919
The COMAC C919 is aiming for certification by the end of 2021. Photo: Getty Images

Certification soon

According to a report from Aviation Week, COMAC is aiming for certification no later than December 31st, 2021. This would mean the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) would begin its certification flights and issue type inspection authorization for the C919 by the end of November.

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COMAC, China Express Airlines, C919
The C919 is now aiming for certification by the end of 2021. Photo: Getty Images

The timeline solidifies COMAC’s plan to bring the C919 into service by 2021, a goal it set back in 2019. While the program has faced several issues during its development, with original delivery dates scheduled for 2016, this time could be different, mostly due to the aircraft’s recent air show-unveiling

The first deliveries could also begin in 2021, with China Eastern slated to be the first operator of the C919. However, this date could be delayed, depending on when certification is actually achieved.

Public unveiling

COMAC has been privately testing the C919 since 2017, with six prototypes currently in service. However, the aircraft was yet to make a debut at an air show, a key step for most new aircraft types. This changed on October 31st, when the C919 flew during the Nanchang Air Show in Jiangxi, China.

The C919 made its air show debut at the end of October, an important step towards potential entry into service next year. Photo: Getty Images

The air show launch marks an important milestone for the aircraft, which has seen little public testing in the last few years. The C919 has also been undergoing intensive testing recently as it prepares for eventual certification. The 2021 entry into service is starting to look more realistic for the C919.

Challenging the duopoly?

The Boeing 737 and Airbus A320 undoubtedly dominate the narrowbody market, with negligible competition. The COMAC C919 is hoping to end this duopoly by offering a narrowbody aircraft with a similar seating capacity. The aircraft seats 190 passengers and is powered by CFM International LEAP engines, giving it the specifications to challenge the 737 MAX and A320neo. However, the plane could face challenges with certification in the West and struggle to win market share.

The C919 has a growing order book but remains restricted to Chinese airlines for the time being.  Photo: Getty Images

When it comes to orders, the C919 has garnered 815 orders from 28 carriers and lessors. All but one customer are Chinese airlines, with Air China, China Eastern, China Southern, and many more placing orders. GE Capital is the only non-Chinese company who has placed an order, with 10 firm orders and 10 options.

While there is interest from some Western airlines, it’s to be seen how popular the aircraft actually proves. Airbus and Boeing have a long history in the market and winning market share would take a lot of effort by COMAC.

What do you think about the C919? Will it be able to challenge Airbus and Boeing? Let us know in the comments below!