Tibet Airlines places orders for COMAC C919s and ARJ21s at Singapore Airshow  

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At the Singapore Airshow 2024, Chinese commercial aircraft manufacturer COMAC announced it has secured orders from Tibet Airlines for both its C919 and ARJ21 passenger aircraft. 

On February 20, 2024, the Tibetan carrier placed firm orders for 40 examples of the high-altitude variant of the C919, alongside ten ARJ21 regional jets. The order for the C919 awards Tibet Airlines with the accolade as the type’s launch customer, as well as COMAC’s latest commercial airline customer in its order book  

The high-altitude variant of the C919 (which will be particularly useful for the mountainous operating environment in Tibet) features a shortened fuselage and other modifications such as strengthened landing gear for short-field performance. The type can seat between 140 and 160 passengers, says the Shanghai-based manufacturer, and is pitched as a direct competitor to the A320 and Boeing 737 narrowbody families.   

The order from Tibet Airlines is the product of closer cooperation between the companies resulting from an agreement signed in December 2023. The agreement related to the joint development of the high-altitude C919 model. Tibet Airlines mostly flies domestic routes within Tibet but also has routes to places such as Kathmandu in Nepal. 

Tibet Airlines spokesperson Gao Dongyue told Reuters that research to develop the C919 high-altitude variant was “ongoing” but that they could not yet disclose a timeline leading to an entry into service. 

“We have a lot of experience in this area,” he said. “And we’re taking into consideration all possible routes that could be suitable for the plane.” 

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Elsewhere, COMAC also announced an order from Henan Civil Aviation Development and Investment Group for six ARJ21 twinjets. The six examples ordered will include variants specifically designed for firefighting, emergency management, and medical services missions.  

COMAC has not disclosed the value of the orders received from either Tibet Airlines or the Henan Civil Aviation Development and Investment Group. 

The Singapore Airshow 2024 (which runs from February 20 until February 25, 2024) sees COMAC have a significant presence and also marks the first international foray for the C919. The prototype most recently visited Hong Kong in December 2023. The type was certified by Chinese regulators in 2022 and entered commercial service with launch customer China Eastern in May 2023. 

Since then, the manufacturer has secured orders from Hainan Airlines group carriers Suparna Airlines and Urumqi Air, with China Eastern also increasing its commitment to the type, with four already in service.  COMAC has received more than 1,000 C919 orders so far, Chinese state media reported in September 2023, mostly from China-based airlines and lessors. 

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In September 2023, a new Brunei-based airline, GallopAir, said it intended to order 30 aircraft from COMAC. The order, if it includes the C919, would mark the first overseas purchase of the C919. If completed, the deal would make GallopAir the second international operator of Chinese-made aircraft after Indonesian low-cost carrier TransNusa, which operates a small fleet of the ARJ21 regional jets. 

COMAC saw its ARJ21 regional jet enter commercial service in 2016 and has delivered 127 planes to customers to date.

author avatar
Luke Peters
Journalist[br][br] Luke has been an aviation journalist since 2021. Having previously worked for several airlines as well as for Airbus, Luke developed a comprehensive knowledge of the commercial aviation industry and airline operations. He subsequently re-trained as a lawyer specializing in aviation law and aircraft finance. A qualified pilot himself, Luke spends his spare time as part of a team keeping one of the world's last remaining Catalina flying boats airworthy. Based in Cambridge, UK.
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