China’s first narrow-body jet, the C919, obtains domestic certification in muted ceremony

The C919 aircraft has obtained CAAC type certification ©COMAC

China’s first home-produced narrow-body jet, the state-owned Commercial Aircraft Corp of China (COMAC) C919, has obtained domestic type certification in what is seen as a major steppingstone on the plane’s journey to challenge both Airbus and Boeing narrow-body jets.

The ceremony was held last Thursday in Beijing based on photographs issued of the event that were labelled “C919 aircraft type certificate issuance ceremony” in Chinese. However, according to Reuters News Agency, when contacted, COMAC refused to comment on the day’s event. The launch customer for the C919 is China Eastern Airlines though it is unlikely to enter into service until 2023. However, the jet will not yet go into mass production as it is yet to obtain a production certification.

Based on the last jet produced in China, the ARJ21, the delay between type certification and production certification could be up to 2.5 years as the Chinese system is different to Western systems where the two certificates are usually issued virtually simultaneously.

Despite the fact that the troubled Boeing 737 MAX has yet to return to the skies in China, China’s demand for the jet remains strong with an order for 300 737s placed three months ago. The situation with the C919 is unusual as while it now has domestic type certification, the jet can only service domestic routes as Western agencies are yet to approve type. In addition, much of the plane is not ‘Chinese’ in that the parts have been manufactured outside the country and subsequently imported. This includes the engines and avionics from companies such as GE, Safran and Honeywell International.

With current tough U.S. export licensing rules, China is unlikely to ban the purchase of Western jets until such time as it is able to produce all elements of the C919, which analysts estimate would take at least ten years. If China banned the purchase of Boeing jets, then the U.S. would likely place restrictions on the export of elements currently needed for the C919. Until then China has estimated that the demand for narrow-body jets will average around 300 units per annum.

The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) has been working for years on a certification validation process on the C919 with COMAC in parallel to CAAC’s work, an EASA spokesperson said. “We cannot comment on the date when this validation would be completed,” the spokesperson said. The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration did not respond to a request for comment on a potential C919 certification validation.

There have been 815 orders for the C919 from 28 customers, according to COMAC’s website. However, China Eastern is the only customer that has announced a firm delivery schedule and it expects to receive only four next year.

Email Post to a Friend Email Post to a Friend