C919 jet nears certification, expected to enter commercial flight in 2023
China's home-made C919 jet nears certification, test flights completed: COMAC
Published: Jul 24, 2022 12:12 PM Updated: Jul 24, 2022 12:07 PM
C919 Photo: VCG
C919 Photo: VCG

Chinese market watchers predicted that China's domestically-made C919 jet, which has completed all test flights, is expected to enter commercial flight in 2023 after gaining certification. 

The Commercial Aircraft Corp of China (COMAC) on Saturday said the C919 jet is nearing certification after six test aircraft completed test flights.

A total of six C919 test planes have finished the tests, which signify that the plane has entered the final stage of receiving a certificate from the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC), which is required for commercial operations, said COMAC in a statement on its official website.

"This is a crucial phased victory in the development of the C919 jet," COMAC said.

The completion of the test tasks shows that the C919 has entered the final stage in gaining airworthiness certification, Wang Ya'nan, chief editor of Beijing-based Aerospace Knowledge magazine, told the Global Times on Sunday.

Next, CAAC and COMAC will conduct a comprehensive evaluation of the procedures and results of the previous years of test flights, and the CAAC will determine whether to issue airworthiness qualifications, Wang noted. Once all test flights have been completed and the results meet the requirements, the airworthiness qualification can be issued, he added.

After obtaining the certification in 2022, COMAC is expected to carry out demonstration flights of commercial routes and the technical training for pilots and personnel involved, which may take 6-12 months.

"Ideally, the C919 is expected to be put into commercial operation in 2023 if everything goes smoothly," Wang said.

There are three certificates to be obtained for the delivery of an aircraft - one is a type certificate, which indicates that the model design of the aircraft meets requirements; the second is a production certification, which indicates that the manufacturing of the aircraft meets the requirements; and the third is individual aircraft certificate, indicating that each aircraft delivered to the airline complies with requirements, Lin Zhijie, an independent market watcher, told the Global Times.

A video circulated online shows that the six planes showed up at the same time at an airport in Yanliang, Northwest China's Shaanxi Province on Tuesday. 

Six C919 aircrafts have conducted their test flights since 2019 in the cities of Yanliang, Nanchang in East China's Jiangxi Province, Dongying in East China's Shandong Province, Xilinhot in North China's Inner Mongolia, Turpan in Northwest China's Xinjiang region, and Dunhuang in Northwest China's Gansu Province with different missions and certification work.

Regarding the progress, CAAC said in December of 2021 that the plane has completed 1,694 test points and 34 certification test flight subjects, while a large number of test flights such as natural icing needs to be carried out.

In January this year, CAAC said that it will continue to focus on the C919 certification as one of the key tasks of 2022, a move to put the homemade aircraft in the sky as early as possible.

Wu Yongliang, Deputy General Manager of COMAC, said at a sideline of the annual meeting of the political advisory body for Shanghai in January that deliveries of the C919 aircraft are expected to take off in 2022, reported. "The delivery will be available when the certification is completed," Wu said. 

Regarding the effect of the pandemic on the progress of the project, Wu said that "the overall impact is under control and all work is advancing in an orderly manner."

In May, the first C919 large passenger aircraft to be delivered completed a successful maiden test flight. The plane departed from Shanghai Pudong International Airport and landed safely after three hours and two minutes in the air, according to COMAC.

During this flight, the test pilots and engineers coordinated and worked in partnership to complete the scheduled tasks, and the aircraft was in good condition and performed well, COMAC said.

The C919, China's first self-developed trunk jetliner, has 158-168 seats with a range of 4,075-5,555 kilometers. The plane conducted a successful maiden flight in 2017. 

In March 2021, COMAC signed a purchase contract with China Eastern Airlines for five planes. The new planes will be used on routes from Shanghai to Beijing, Guangzhou, Shenzhen and Chengdu, according to the airline.

On May 10, China Eastern Airlines said in a filing that it planned to raise 15 billion yuan ($2.21 billion) to acquire 38 aircraft, including a total of 28 C919 and ARJ21-700 planes. The filing also revealed the unit price of the C919, which was listed as $99 million.

To date, COMAC has received 815 orders for the C919 from 28 customers worldwide.