COMAC’s 1st C919 Set To Be Delivered By The End Of 2021

2021 has been a busy year for commercial aviation as the industry looks to bounce back from the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic. Chinese manufacturer COMAC is set to end the year on a high with the delivery of its first C919 narrowbody twinjet.

COMAC’s 1st C919 Set To Be Delivered By The End Of 2021
The C919’s first flight took place more than four years ago. Photo: Getty Images

The first delivery

China Eastern Airlines is set to become the first airline to receive the new COMAC C919 narrowbody jetliner. Designed and built in China, the first delivery of the type to the SkyTeam member is planned to take place in the second half of this year.

According to FlightGlobal, the Shanghai-based carrier announced that it would become the world’s first C919 customer as part of its recent half-year results. This projection is in line with its Mach 2020 full-year results, at which time it also projected this delivery timeline.

The announcement also has implications regarding the future of the Boeing 737 MAX. Indeed, China Eastern’s latest fleet forecast reportedly has no fixed delivery schedule for the US narrowbody. The airline stated: “As of the date of this report, the 737 MAX has been grounded, so the delivery plan of this aircraft has not been included in the future planning.”

China Eastern Boeing 737 MAX
China Eastern’s remaining 737 MAXs have no set delivery date. Photo: N509FZ via Wikimedia Commons

China is still yet to lift its grounding of the next-generation twinjet. That being said, a MAX 7 did recently spend time in the country operating validation flights.

A long time coming

COMAC has had to wait a fair while to be able to make its first delivery. Indeed, the C919 made its first-ever test flight over four years ago, in May 2017. However, it has recently hit a few stumbling blocks that have hindered the new plane’s certification processes.

Like many aspects of commercial aviation, the ongoing coronavirus pandemic has been a key factor in these delays. Earlier this year, Simple Flying reported that the C919 would have to wait until the autumn to undergo natural icing trials due to travel restrictions.

That being said, COMAC has been able to diligently push on with its production of the aircraft, which has been touted as a potential Airbus A320neo and Boeing 737 MAX challenger. Indeed, Simple Flying reported this month that six had been built.

COMAC has now built six C919s. Photo: COMAC

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Five coming to China Eastern

FlightGlobal notes that China Eastern is likely to deploy the C919 on flights operated by its low-cost subsidiary OTT Airlines. The carrier signed a purchase agreement for five examples of the new aircraft earlier this year, following a 2010 letter of intent for 20 C919s.

The second and third aircraft from this firm order will reportedly join China Eastern in 2022. The final pair will then come onboard a year later, in 2023. China Eastern has been heavily involved in the C919’s development. For example, COMAC reports that it “provided suggestions from the perspectives of customer use and maintenance.” It adds:

Relying on the industrial chain partnership and the geographical advantage of both being in Shanghai, China Eastern Airlines and COMAC have constantly promoted cooperation and innovation on the industrial chain, and jointly explored new practices in the commercial operation of C919 aircraft.”

What do you make of the COMAC C919? Are you looking forward to seeing it enter service? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!