The airline took delivery of the first of five airframes on December 9, 2022, and has been performing ground tests and route-proving flights ever since. Now, six months later, the aircraft is ready to make its commercial debut on medium-haul domestic flights within China.
This journey will happen on Sunday, May 28, 2023, with the symbolic flight number MU9191. It will connect the two key cities of Shanghai Hongqiao (SHA) and Beijing Capital (PEK), departing at 10:45 local time. The aircraft, registered as B-919A, is configured in a two-class layout, capable of carrying 164 passengers.
The COMAC C-919 will begin a long journey of proving itself as a viable alternative for Asian carriers primarily designed to compete with Western manufacturers Boeing and Airbus, with their respective worldwide successful Boeing 737 MAX and A320neo families of narrow-body aircraft.
Orders and Deliveries of the C-919
Since its public launch in 2008, the COMAC C919 has yet to make progress outside its home country. Despite this, the sole domestic market of China has been sufficient to ensure more than 540 firm orders with 120 additional options for the airplane.
The order book of the C919 is made of large state-owned Chinese carriers such as Air China (CA), China Eastern (MU), or Hainan Airlines (HU), as well as significant leasing national entities like ABC, ICBC, or the CCB. Interestingly, the only foreign companies that have invested in the type to continue its marketing inside of China are AerCap and BOC Aviation, both dry-leasing enterprises.
The truth is that the COMAC C919 still needs to perform better in the outside world beyond China. The only foreign airline to have ever ordered the type was the Thai carrier City Airways (E8), which unfortunately ceased operations in February 2016, therefore needing to cancel the order.
Time to Prove its Viability
The start of commercial revenue operations of COMAC’s newest aircraft is the perfect time for the manufacturer to prove that purchasing aircraft designed in China is also an option to consider by the world’s airlines.
Looking at COMAC’s earlier projects, such as the ARJ21, the current operator list of this regional jet is also dominated by national companies. Only one airframe of the delivered fleet since its commercial debut has been destined for a foreign airline, TransNusa (8B), a tiny regional airline of Indonesia with just five airplanes.
It is exciting to see if, in the medium-haul market, despite the sizeable international failure of its younger brother, the COMAC C919 will eventually be successful and face considerable competition to the oligopoly created by Airbus and Boeing worldwide.
Featured image: COMAC C-919 rollout for China Eastern Airlines. Photo: COMAC