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The Success Story of COMAC C919’s First Year with China Eastern: China’s Aerospace Growth

The Success Story of COMAC C919's First Year with China Eastern: China's Aerospace Growth

On December 9, 2023, China celebrated the first anniversary of delivering the COMAC C919 to China Eastern Airlines. The initial production airframe was handed over to China Eastern Airlines on December 9, 2022, and officially entered commercial passenger service on May 28, 2023.

The COMAC c_919, a highly anticipated aircraft from China, marks the country’s inaugural venture into the production of commercial airplanes. As the world’s second-most populous nation, China faces substantial demand for both domestic and international air travel, and the aviation industry is poised for growth, with Airbus and Boeing currently dominating the commercial plane market in China.

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In February 2023, China Eastern Airlines’ C919 flight-test verification program experienced a delay due to a malfunction in the jet’s CFM International LEAP-1C engine’s thrust reverser. After a three-month hiatus that grounded the entire fleet of C919s, test flights resumed on May 7, 2023, as the airline continued to plan for passenger revenue service to commence in spring 2023.

In September 2023, COMAC Chairman He Dongfeng announced plans to produce shortened and extended variants of the C919, accommodating a range from 130 to 240 seats. The maximum capacity would accommodate nearly 50 more passengers than the current variant, capable of seating 156-192 people.

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The intended payload capacity for the aircraft is 20.4 tonnes, designed to cruise at Mach 0.785 (450 kn; 834 km/h) with an operating ceiling of 12,200 meters (39,800 feet). The two variants include a standard version with a 4,075 km (2,200 nautical miles; 2,532 miles) range and an extended-range version with a range of 5,555 km (2,999 nautical miles; 3,452 miles). Analysts view the C919 as a conservative design, resembling the 30-year-old A320 and considered less efficient than the A320neo and 737 MAX.

Contrary to earlier plans in Russia to develop the wider-bodied C929 aircraft based on the C919 design with a new engine, China has opted for independent engineering to develop this aircraft. The C919 is currently equipped with the LEAP-1C Engine, similar to those used on the Airbus A320 neo and Boeing 737 MAX families of aircraft. The LEAP-1C engine is produced by CFM International, a joint venture between GE Aviation (USA) and Safran Aircraft Engine (France). As of now, there are no plans to change the engine for the C919.

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As of September 2023, reported C919 orders have reached 1,061, with sources indicating a heavily modified jet listed for 653 million yuan (US$101 million). This price is nearly on par with competitors Airbus A320neo and Boeing 737 MAX, and significantly higher than the initially anticipated US$50 million price.

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