Modern Airliners

COMAC C919

COMAC C919 on final approach at Shanghai Pudong

The COMAC C919, China's own airliner, was scheduled to fly in 2014 and enter service in 2016.

COMAC C919 the new Chinese airliner.

The COMAC C919 is part of China’s bid to be a major player in the big airliner manufacturing market.  The Chinese state-owned manufacturer, Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China (COMAC), was established in Shanghai on 11 May 2008 with this mission in mind. The manufacture of large airliners is perhaps one of the most technologically challenging industries that exist in the world today.  The fact that Boeing and Airbus have managed stay in this space for so long is testimony to their expertise and their ability to withstand the school of hard knocks.

A representation of a COMAC C919 aircraft in Hainan Airlines colours. Hainan Airlines is one of the original 6 airlines to order the C919.

COMACs Plan

The C919 airliner is the largest commercial airliner to be designed and built in China. The design is a twin engined jet airliner which will be put up in competition with the Airbus A320 and the Boeing 737.  This is a very lucrative market which Boeing and Airbus fight over vigorously, as these aircraft are the mainstay of Low Cost Carrier fleets.

Filling the 158 – 174 seat market, the Comac C919 is the first phase of Chinas’ plan to be supplier to one third of the worlds’ large airliner needs. Like Boeing and Airbus, COMAC intends to have solutions for every segment of the jet transport market. There are already plans in place for the larger C929, offering 300 seats and the C939 offering 400 seats.

COMAC C919 Airplane

The C919 is designed and built in China and is of a similar layout to the Boeing 737 and Airbus A320, being a twin engined, low winged, single aisle aircraft. To look at, she resembles the A320 a bit more than the 737.  The nose section is sleek looking much like the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, whereas the tail section of the fuselage is more Airbus like, with the end point being aligned with the cabin roof rather than the Boeing style of having a cone with the end point being halfway between the top and bottom of the fuselage.

COMAC C919 Design

Shanghai is the central point for the design and production of the C919. Like Airbus and Boeing, the various components that make up the C919 are manufactured by other entities. These are spread over China, for example, the flaps, ailerons, wing panels, centre and outer wing box will be manufactured in Xi’an, China. The fuselage sections will be made in Jiangxi Province. These parts will all be brought together in Shanghai to complete the end product C919.  Most of the air-frame of the C919 makes use of aluminium alloys, with the centre wing box making use of carbon fibre composite materials.

The assembly of the COMAC C919 takes place in Shanghai.

COMAC C919 Foreign Components

Whilst the C919 is said to be Chinas’ own homegrown airliner, there are still many parts that are being supplied by foreign manufacturers. This of course is not unusual as both Boeing and Airbus adopt the same strategy in the production of their own airliners. Whilst the list of suppliers currently might feature many non-Chinese entities, rest assured this is only until such time as China can ramp up their own technology to built these parts themselves. For example, the engines which are currently supplied by the General Electric joint venture with AVIC will be replaced by the Chinese developed CJ1000. The government has a development beginning 2021-2025. This could take 15 years. The list below shows some of the main suppliers of components for the C919.

COMAC C919 Supplier Table

Component Supplier
Engines Leap X1C engine supplied by CFMI, a joint venture between US based General Electric and French based SNECMA.  
Avionics Rockwell Collins, Honeywell, CETC, GE AVIC, (General Electric joint venture with AVIC (Aviation Industry Corporation of China))

Fight Control System – Full Authority Fly by wire and advanced active control technology.

Parker, AVIC, Honeywell, MOOG

Landing Gear System

Liebherr

Hydraulic System

Parker, AVIC
Air Conditioning System Liebherr

Electric System

Hamilton, Sundstrand, AVIC
Flight Deck and Cabin Interior FACC, XML
APU (auxilary power unit) Honeywell, AVIC
Fire protection KIDDE, AVIC

Lighting System

Goodrich, AVIC, TM, Jiuzhou, Eaton

Many names are of course recognisable as suppliers for other aircraft makers and are experts in their field.

COMAC C919 History

Building a new airliner for the first time is a very challenging and time consuming affair.  Even seasoned plane makers such as Boeing and Airbus have suffered many delays in bringing their new prototypes to fruition.  New technologies, new ways of manufacturing and doing things for the first time are all factors that will make the journey a long one.

Comac C919 – Commercial Aircraft Corporation Of China.

With the development of the C919, COMAC initiated an agreement of cooperation with Irish Low-Cost Carrier, Ryanair.  This agreement lasted six months and enabled airline perspectives to be taken into consideration during the design phase.  From here COMAC went ahead and created the design for the C919.

C919 Timeline

Date  Event
 11 May 2008 COMAC (Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China, Ltd.) is established with the aim of building airliners to reduce the dependency on foreign airliner makers.
 28 October 2010 COMAC applies to the Civil Aviation Authority of China for type certification of the C919.
 November 2010 At the Zhuhai Airshow COMAC announced it had received 55 orders for the C919 from: Air China, CDB Leasing Company, China Eastern Airlines, China Southern Airlines, GE Capital Aviation Services and Hainan Airlines.
 June 2011 COMAC and Ryanair sign a cooperation agreement on the development of the C919
 20 October 2011 ICBC Leasing agree to be the C919 launch customer with an order of 45 aircraft.
 11 November 2014 At the Zhuhai Airshow China Merchants Bank(Leasing) orders 30 C919s.
 24 November 2011 The COMAC / Ryanair agreement is concluded.
 9 December 2011 Construction of the first C919 prototype begins. Assembly was expected in 2014 with a first test flight in 2015.
 September 2015 The first C919 rolls of the production line with no engines mounted.
 02 November 2015 The first completed C919 rolls out.
 April 2017 High speed taxi tests completed.
05 May 2017 The maiden flight of the Comac C919. 4,200 hours of testing required to meet a projected launch in 2020 but will more than likely slip to 2021.
 28 September 2017 The second flight of the COMAC C919, 2 hours 46 minutes to a height of 10,000ft. The delay of five months between first and second flights is quite unusual.
 28 July 2017 The second COMAC C919 prototype is completed. The flight test program called for six aircraft.
 03 November 2017 The third flight lasting 3 hours 45 minutes to a height of 9,800ft.
 10 November 2017 The first prototype was transferred from Shanghai to Xian to continue flight testing.
 17 December 2017 The second prototype makes its maiden flight.
 February 2018 The first prototype was flying once a week, however, launch customer, China Eastern Airlines, was advised that the launch would likely slip from 2020 to 2021.
 June 2018 It was reported that the launch schedule would be delayed three months, but COMAC were still hoping for a 2020 certification.
 12 July 2018 The second prototype flew from Shanghai/Pudong to Dongying Airport in 1 hour 46 minutes to take in a variation of meteorological conditions.
 01 August 2019 The fourth prototype conducted its maiden flight, taking off from Shanghai/Pudong.
 24 October 2019 The fifth prototype conducted its maiden flight, taking off from Shanghai/Pudong.
 27 December 2019 The sixth prototype conducted its maiden flight.
 27 November 2020 The CAAC issued a type inspection authorisation. This basically means that aircraft design is finalised and no major structural changes can now be made.

C919 Specs

The first iteration of the family of airliners planned by COMAC is the 156-174 seat C919.  This will be the smallest of the plane makers’ offerings and looks to be offered in 6 variations. It is hard to know if this encompasses the whole fleet of C919, C929 and C939.  The offerings are called: Baseline, Stretched, Freighter, Shortened, Business and Specials.

The C919 flight deck features a side control stick in place of the centre control column preferred by Boeing. As well as the large display screens, note the HUD glass panels at the top of the picture.

The C919 flight deck is very much along the lines of the Airbus style, with a side control joystick instead of the standard control column controlling the fly by wire system. Instrumentation is state of the art with two 15.4 inch main display screens in front of each pilot as well as a 12.5 inch side screen below the window. In addition, the C919 will be offered with the option of a HUD (Head Up Display). This is used in fighter jets where instrument data is projected onto a window in front of the pilot so he can monitor data such as airspeed, altitude and other information without having to look down. In other words his/her head remains up.

C919 Specification Table

 C919 Mixed Class  C919 All Economy  C919 High Density
 Flight Crew  2
 Seating 158 in 2 classes   168 in all economy  174 in all economy
 Seating Pitch 12 seats – 97cm 144 seats – 81cm  168 seats – 81cm 174 seats – 76cm
 Fuselage Length  38.9 Metres
 Fuselage Width 3.95 Metres
 Tail height 11.95 Metres
 Wing Span  35.8 Metres
 Wing Area 129.15 Square Metres
 Cabin Width 3.9 Metres
 Cabin Height  2.25 Metres
 MTOW 72,500 kg/159,835 lb
Extended Range 77,300 kg / 170,417 lb
 Maximum Payload 20,400 kg / 45,000 lb
 Empty Weight 42,100 kg / 92,815 lb
 Range Fully Laden Standard – 4,075 km (2,200 nm)
Extended Range – 5,555 km (2,999 nm)
 Cruise Mach .785 / 598 mph / 969 Kph
 Take-off distance 2,000 M / 6,600 ft
Extended Range 2,200 M / 7,200 ft
 Service Ceiling 12,100 M / 39,700 ft
 Approach Speed 135 kn / 250 kph
 Landing/span> 1,600 M / 5,200 ft
 Engines CFM International LEAP 1C / COMAC CJ-1000A
 Thrust 137.9 kN (31,000 lbf)

As more information comes to hand, we will update the details on this website. If you have any questions or comments please feel free to leave them in comments below.  Thank you for stopping by.

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