China Eastern Airlines to be first global customer for C919
Published: Mar 01, 2021 09:25 PM
Photo: Courtesy of China Eastern

Photo: Courtesy of China Eastern

China Eastern Airlines will be the first global customer for the domestically made regional jetliner C919, the airline said at a signing ceremony on Monday, a milestone showing the aircraft is on the road to commercial operation. 

The move follows a cooperation framework agreement signed in November of 2016 by the two companies.  

China Eastern said in a release it sent to the Global Times that it has formally signed a purchase contract for the first batch of five C919 airplanes with producer Commercial Aircraft Corp of China (COMAC) in Shanghai, without saying when deliveries will start.

The signing ceremony is a major milestone toward commercial operation of the C919. It marks another important step forward for the domestic large aircraft on the road to commercial success, He Dongfeng, board chairman of COMAC, said on Monday.

The signing ceremony shows it won't be long until the first C919 is delivered, Lin Zhijie, a market watcher, told the Global Times on Monday, adding that China Eastern has relatively strong operational capabilities, maintenance capabilities and technical strength, which can help COMAC make the aircraft a better fit for the market.

The C919 is a large jet airliner developed by China with independent intellectual property rights, a rival to the Boeing 737 and Airbus A320 series aircraft.

The plane rolled off the production line in 2015 and completed its maiden flight from Shanghai Pudong International Airport on May 5, 2017. The regulator issued the first Type Inspection Authorization for the C919 program in November 2020, showing the aircraft has officially begun certification flight tests. 

In January this year, the C919 successfully held cold-weather test flights in Hulunbuir, North China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region.

Wu Guanghui, chief designer of the C919, said in May last year that there were 815 orders for the plane from 28 customers. 

Chinese carrier China Express announced in June last year that it signed a framework agreement with COMAC to buy and operate a total of 100 planes, including ARJ21-700s and C919s. Deliveries will take place over a 10-year period that started in 2020.

China Eastern said that it deeply participated in the design and development process of the C919 aircraft, including crew training, and it will continue to promote cooperation and innovation in the industry chain.

The carrier said the C919 aircraft will be used on routes from Shanghai to cities such as Beijing, Guangzhou and Shenzhen.

China Eastern Airlines' fleet exceeded 750 aircraft as of the end of 2020, making it one of the youngest among the global air carriers. It has a route network to 1,036 destinations in 170 countries and regions, with annual passenger traffic of more than 130 million, ranking among the top 10 in the world.

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