China’s C919 Aircraft Set to Make Commercial Debut

After receiving its first domestically produced C919 aircraft at the end of last year, China Eastern Airlines’ C919 is finally set to make its commercial maiden flight. This information was confirmed today via the airline’s app, which displayed flight MU9191, scheduled to operate the Beijing-Shanghai route on May 28th.

The C919, a large passenger aircraft, is the product of China’s independent research and development, in accordance with international civil aviation regulations. With a seating capacity of 158-168 and a range of 4075-5555 kilometers, it showcases China’s aviation prowess. China Eastern Airlines became the first global user of the C919, after formally signing a purchase agreement for five C919 aircraft with the Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China (COMAC) in March 2021. The first C919 was delivered to the airline at the end of 2022.

According to journalists, the C919 began a series of intensive validation flights from Shanghai last week. Its itinerary spanned Beijing, Xi’an, Chengdu, Nanjing, Taiyuan, among other locations, to simulate full passenger processes in preparation for commercial operations. Prior to this, the C919 had already completed 100 hours of validation flights, with total flight time greatly exceeding 100 hours since its delivery on December 9th.

The first C919 of China Eastern Airlines boasts a two-cabin layout, accommodating 164 seats, including eight business class and 156 economy class seats. These seats were independently developed as part of the new generation of domestic cabin seats. After May 28th, flights operated by the C919 will also enter China Eastern Airlines’ sales system, with the aircraft set to fly routes such as Shanghai to Chengdu Tianfu. The airline plans to introduce the C919 into high-quality boutique routes, including Shanghai, Beijing, Xi’an, Kunming, Guangzhou, Chengdu, Shenzhen, and others, allowing passengers to experience the domestic large aircraft on these routes first-hand.

According to China Eastern Airlines’ annual report, the airline is set to receive four C919 aircraft in 2023.

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In addition to China Eastern Airlines, Hainan Airlines Group also signed an agreement at the end of April this year with COMAC in Shanghai to purchase a hundred aircraft. The agreement includes 60 confirmed orders for the C919 and 40 intended orders for the ARJ21 aircraft. Other airlines and leasing companies have also confirmed orders, meaning the delivery pace of the C919 will accelerate. However, a COMAC representative stated that any new aircraft’s delivery pace would gradually shift from small batches to larger ones, suggesting that the C919’s initial delivery volume would not be extensive. For instance, if ten aircraft are delivered in the first year, the number would gradually increase in subsequent years.

The delivery of the domestically produced C919 signifies the introduction of a third competitor to the narrow-body passenger aircraft market, currently shared by Boeing and Airbus. COMAC’s latest market forecast report (2022-2041) revealed that China’s aviation market will receive 9,284 jet passenger aircraft over the next 20 years, including 958 regional aircraft, 6,288 single-aisle aircraft, and 2,038 twin-aisle aircraft. By 2041, China’s fleet will reach 10,007 aircraft, accounting for 21.1% of the global passenger fleet, making China’s aviation market the largest single aviation market worldwide.