The manufacturer also increased the order book for its regional jet, the ARJ21, with 30 planes on the first day of the Zhuhai Air Show.

COMAC C919 aircraft on apron in the dark
Photo: Getty Images

As China’s new narrowbody contender made its first proper public appearance, it also snapped up orders for hundreds of units during the Zhuhai Air Show. COMAC announced Tuesday that it had received as many as 300 orders from carriers during the airshow, despite the continued downturn of the country’s commercial aviation market due to long-going COVID-19 restrictions.

The C919 single-aisle jet program has, as has become almost the norm with new aircraft, suffered substantial delays and gone significantly over budget. Having made its first flight in May 2017, it was finally certified a little over a month ago by the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC). The first aircraft is intended to be delivered to launch customer China Southern in December and is now expected to enter service early next year.

Thus far, the new plane has amassed orders for a total of 815 units from 28 customers. Most of these are Chinese, but the list also includes aircraft leasing giant GE Capital Aviation Services (GECAS), which has put its name down for ten with further options for ten more.

C919 in the air

Photo: Getty Images

Could we see the C919 with LCCs in Europe?

The aircraft is meant to compete domestically with Boeing’s and Airbus’ narrowbody families of the 737 and the A320. However, it could potentially find its way further west in the future.

In a recent interview with Simple Flying, Ryanair’s CEO Eddie Wilson said that even though he doubts that they will be selling outside of China in larger numbers for some time, his airline would not immediately reject the C919 as an option for its fleet in the future. Although, that seems mostly to come down to a matter of price. Wilson said,

“We would welcome a third person to break the duopoly between Boeing and Airbus. We would hope that they (COMAC) will have a good aircraft, but that aircraft will have a lot of tried-and-tested Western components as well. And the question is, will that be reflected in the pricing of those aircraft or not?”

More orders for the ARJ21

Furthermore, COMAC received orders for 30 of its shorter-range regional jet, the ARJ21. The type currently has 50 active units across eight carriers (including five testbeds with the manufacturer), with major operators including Chengdu Airlines, Jiangxi Airlines, China Southern, and China Eastern. Before the ongoing airshow in the south of China, the ARJ21 backlog stood at 379 aircraft.


Photo: Simple Flying

The Zhuhai Air Show commenced on November 7 and will continue until November 13. You can see the C919 take flight at around 1:30:50 in the video below.

What do you think of the future of the C919 inside and outside of China? Would you be excited to fly on the new jet, given the opportunity? Leave a comment in the section below and tell us your thoughts.


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