China's COMAC to deliver first plane in 2021

Agence France Presse

Posted at Feb 06 2018 09:07 PM

Employees work on a China's home-grown C919 passenger jet at Manufacturing and Final Assembly Center of state-owned Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China (COMAC) during a media tour in Shanghai, China May 4, 2017. Aly Song, Reuters File Photo

SINGAPORE - China's state-owned plane-maker said Tuesday it expects to deliver its first home-grown passenger jet to a customer in 2021 as the world's second largest economy seeks to challenge the dominance of Boeing and Airbus.

The Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China (COMAC) plans to first target the Chinese market, before moving on to Southeast Asia and Africa, said Lu Zheng, deputy general manager of sales and marketing.

The C919, a COMAC-built 168-seater passenger plane, will likely be cheaper than equivalent models by its closest competitors, Lu told reporters on the sidelines of the Singapore Airshow.

The company is hopeful that it will obtain Chinese airworthiness certification for the plane in three to four years.

"We hope to hand over the first C919 to China Eastern Airlines in 2021 and we will work hard for it," Lu said.

"Our main audience is the China market, but we are exploring opportunities overseas," he added.

The narrow-body jet represents nearly a decade of effort in a state-mandated drive to reduce dependence on European consortium Airbus and US aerospace giant Boeing.

The C919 has a range of 5,555 kilometers (3,444 miles).

The Airbus A320 at list price is $101 million with a range of 6,500 kilometers, and the Boeing 737 MAX 8 has a list price of $117.1 million and a range of 6,570 kilometers.

The maiden test flight of the first prototype C919 took place in May last year, and a second prototype completed its first flight in December. Test results have turned out well, Lu said.

COMAC has already received 785 orders for the C919, including 34 orders from overseas, including Germany and Thailand, he said.

China is a huge battleground for Boeing and Airbus, with Chinese travelers taking to the skies in ever-growing numbers.

The Chinese travel market is expected to surpass the United States by 2024, according to the International Air Transport Association.

But aviation analysts have said Shanghai-based COMAC has a long journey ahead before it can challenge the lock held on the market by Boeing and Airbus.