Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China (COMAC) made the first delivery of the C919 to its launch customer, China Eastern Airlines, on December 9, 2022. The aircraft, designed and built to compete with the Boeing 737 MAX and Airbus A320neo families, is now the second Chinese-made jet on the market, following in the wake of the ARJ21.
The manufacturer shipped China Eastern’s first C919 on December 9, 2022. The aircraft, registered as B-919A, flew between Shanghai’s two airports, that is, from Pudong International Airport (PVG) to Hongqiao International Airport (SHA). Video footage shows it was greeted with a water salute upon arrival.
C919 competing with B737 MAX and A320neo
The C919 is slated to enter commercial service with the Chinese carrier sometime in 2023 with aims to compete with Boeing’s 737 MAX and Airbus’ A320neo families.
According to COMAC’s product page, the Chinese narrow-body jet has a flexible layout totaling from 158 to 192 seats and it can fly between 4,075 and 5,555 kilometers (2,532 and 3450 miles respectively). It was initially rolled out on November 2, 2015, making its first flight on May 5, 2022. After receiving its Type Certificate (TC) on September 29, 2022, the jet was finally ready to arrive with its launch customer China Eastern Airlines.
The C919 will be competing with the 737 MAX, whose -8 and -9 variants seat between 162 and 178 passengers respectively (or between 178 and 193 in a two-class layout) and the Airbus A320neo (typical two-class layout is between 150 and 180 passengers). The C919 has the same engines as those two jets, namely the CFM International LEAP. It comes equipped with the LEAP -1C, while the 737 MAX has the -1B, and the A320neos operates with the -1A. In addition, Airbus A320neo customers can opt for the Pratt & Whitney PW1100G engine family.
However, the Chinese-made jet will have some catching up to do, as both the 737 MAX and the A320neo already have long operating histories, as well as prior generation variants which offer many benefits to operators, including pilots’ type rating commonality. Being Chinese-made, though, and with China’s emphasis on developing its indigenous industry, the C919 will have a natural advantage in a more controlled aviation market.
China Eastern Airlines ordered five units of the C919 in 2010. Following the delivery of the first aircraft, the company expects to receive the remaining four throughout 2023. According to local media reports, the airline will first test the aircraft’s operational safety, reliability, and supporting procedures before flying commercially in early 2023.