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C919 - Program

The People's Republic of China is investing significant resources to become a competitor in the civil aircraft industry. With its regional jet program in the flight testing phase, the Chinese are embarking on a new program to develop a 150-seat narrow-body aircraft that would compete with aircraft currently sold by Boeing and Airbus. The effort to create a competitive civil aircraft production program in China is in part motivated by growth in domestic demand for air transportation, which should lead to orders for over 3,770 new aircraft by 2028. Attempts to capitalize on this demand have led established manufacturers to engage Chinese suppliers in various joint ventures while simultaneously eyeing the Chinese as future competitors.

The official state news agency Xinhua announced China's intention of building an LCA and offering it for delivery by 2020. A Cabinet meeting held on February 26, 2007 approved in principle the implementation of a formal production program. If successful, global LCA producers would face new competition from a domestic Chinese manufacturer.

In 2008, China undertook a major reorganization of its aerospace manufacturing enterprises. In May 2008, China established the Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China (COMAC) to oversee the development and production of a large civil aircraft now called the C919. COMAC was given responsibility for most of China's commercial aircraft programs, including the ARJ-21 regional jet.

China's transition to a competitive producer of commercial jet aircraft and engines will be aided by its large and growing domestic aviation market, providing a ready market for new indigenous aircraft. China's has the world's fastest growing domestic aviation industry, with air traffic increasing at a rate of 7.9 percent per year. Given that there are only about 1,325 commercial jets operating in China (compared to roughly 7,000 in the United States), industry analysts predict that Chinese airlines will need to add over 3000 large- and medium-sized aircraft to their fleets over the next two decades to meet this demand.

On 30 May 2008 a top official from European aircraft maker Airbus said it was negotiating with its Chinese counterparts to join China's jumbo jet manufacturing program, which was officially inaugurated in Shanghai on 11 May 2008. "I'm sure we will expand our business in China, although some factors might make China our competitor," said Laurence Barron, Airbus China president, in an exclusive interview with Xinhua on Friday at the 18th Asian Corporate Conference of Asia Society. "Not a single country could make a plane on its own. The generator, instruments and even the oil used by Airbus all come from different partners. China need such support."

Guangdong Changsheng Aircraft Design Co Ltd, a private company backed by a real estate developer, planned to become a shareholder in a joint stock company that will take charge of China's large commercial aircraft project. The private company wanted to do the conceptual and aerodynamic design of the new aircraft. Guangdong Changsheng Aircraft Design Co., Ltd. (referred as "Changsheng") is a private company, which is established in 2006. It has exhibited the design plans of two series large jet aircrafts. One of them is CS 2000. CS is not only the first capitals of Changsheng, but also the China Star in English. CS 2000 is 200-300 seats dual aisle large aircraft. The other plan is CS 2010, which is a 150-200 seat single aisle aircraft.

According to the decision of State Council on February 26th, 2007, the registration of large aircraft should be operated with joint venture form. The joint venture company will charge the research, manufacture and sales of the large aircraft. At the same time, China encourages social capital and private capital. As a private enterprise, Changsheng is established to join national large aircraft project, including investment, technical support, and enjoying some core research. Guangdong Changsheng has about 30 aircraft designers and engineers. Eight of them used to be major designers of China's Y-10 passenger jet and the ARJ21 regional jet. The Y-10 was developed by China in the 1970s, but never entered commercial service. The ARJ21 is then in final assembly and was to begin service in late 2009.

In early 2007 Jin Qiansheng, deputy director of the administrative committee of Xi'an Yanliang State Aviation High-tech Industry Base, said the home-developed "jumbo" aircraft will be assembled in both Shanghai and Xi'an, capital of northwest China's Shaanxi Province. Though the project was still in the initial planning phase, Xi'an was expected to shoulder about 50 percent of the manufacturing workload for jumbo airliners and 60 percent for airfreighters. The Commission of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense disclosed that Shanghai will be the assembly base when it announced last week that the country would launch jumbo aircraft manufacturing. "Yanliang will also play a key role in developing the country's own jumbo aircraft. It is the only national aviation industry base, and it has China's strongest aviation research and development team," Jin said at an ongoing investment and trade forum in Xi'an. Yanliang is also responsible for producing the wings and fuselage of China's innovative new regional jet, the ARJ-21. "China's jumbo aircraft will initially target the domestic market. But the ultimate aim is to compete with Boeing and Airbus on the international market." Jin said.

In February 2010 Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China (COMAC), the manufacturer of China's first large passenger aircraft C919, projected an ambitious plan to sell over 2,000 C919 jetliners within the next 20 years. The 168-190 seat narrow-body aircraft, similar to the Airbus A320 family and Boeing 737, will take its first flight in 2014 and get certified in 2016.

In November 2010 the Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China (COMAC) signed startup client agreements with six Chinese and foreign enterprises for the C919 large passenger aircraft. The contract parties include Air China, China Eastern Airlines, and China Southern Airlines, which make up China's three key civil air transport companies. It also includes Hainan Airlines, China's fourth largest airline, CDB Leasing, China's financial leasing company with the largest registered capital and assets and the earliest company to develop the aircraft-leasing business, and U.S.-based GECAS Company, an important company in the world that specializes in the aircraft-leasing business and owns 1,450 aircraft. COMAC acquired order forms for 100 units of the C919 aircraft.

Wu Guanghui, chief designer of the C919 and vice president of The Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China, said March 12 2010 that the Aircraft C919 would embark on its maiden flight in 2014 and enter service in 2016. The design proposal of the C919 was to be completed at the end of 2010, and within the next 20 years, COMAC is expected to sell 2,000 C919 jetliners, according to Wu. ''In order to lessen costs for research and development, suppliers should also put in their investment and use advanced technologies and materials to reduce the weight of the plane,'' stated Wu.

By February 2012 Commercial Aircraft Corp of China expected to sign all key suppliers for the aircraft by June 2012 as it worked toward a 2014 deadline for the jet's maiden flight. COMAC hoped to have as many as 300 orders and commitments for the plane by the end of this year. At that time COMAC expected to reach an agreement with Bombardier Inc within two months to secure the coopperation of the Canadian aircraft manufacturer on the jet's development. Comac's C919 was not a direct rival to the 100-to-149-seat C Series as it was a larger plane, in the 168-to-190-seat segment. Commonalities between the C Series and the C919 could provide each company with a competitive advantage in selling both jet families to airlines, with the possibility of sharing pilot training and other activities and thus reducing costs.

The C919, made its debut in Shanghai on 02 November 2015. Comac C919 is a planned family of 158-174 seat narrow-body airliners to be built by the Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China (Comac). It will be the largest commercial airliner designed and built in China. In 2016 COMAC will embark on three years of flight testing. The aircraft will be ready for regular service for airlines, scheduled for 2019.

The manufacturer has received orders from 21 customers to purchase 517 aircraft, mostly from Chinese carriers and US-based GE Capital Aviation Services. ICBC Financial Leasing Co, China's biggest financial leasing company, is to start promoting sales of the domestically built C919 airliner. ICBC Financial Leasing is so far the C919's biggest individual launching client, having placed 45 orders.

On 14 January 2021, Washington included the Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China (Comac) in a Department of Defence list of companies, which have alleged ties to the Chinese military. Trump had used a host of measures including a costly trade war to put pressure on China, which he accuses of currency manipulation and stealing American technology. However, the parting shot at China can be a problem for incoming President Joe Biden, who has signaled a more reconciliatory foreign policy. It’s possible President Biden will review this decision by Trump. US companies are hugely dependent on China so he has to take this into account.

From General Electric’s CFM LEAP-1C engines and avionics to flight data recorders, many of the Comac aircraft components come from the US. One study found that 60 percent of the Chinese aircraft is based on parts manufactured in the US and EU-member states. Comac had little success in marketing its aircraft models outside China since the company was launched more than a decade ago as part of Beijing's plan to move the world's second largest economy into making high-tech goods. The company sold around 40 of its short-range regional jet ARJ21 to Chinese carriers such as Chengdu Airlines. But it was the much-anticipated C919 which has been at the centre of international attention.

The C919, which features a bigger lavatory and wider space for cabin crew to sort out inflight meals, is being marketed as a competitor to the Boeing 737 Max and Airbus 320Neo. The narrow-body C919 is still undergoing flight trials and Chinese regulators will not likely give it the greenlight until 2022. The untested Chinese commercial aircraft will also face difficulties in getting the go-ahead from western aviation regulators who are already feeling the heat over the B737Max disaster. Aircraft leasing companies linked to Beijing have placed confirmed orders for only 148 C919s.

Boeing estimates that Chinese carriers such as China Southern Airlines will order 8,600 aircraft over the next 20 years.

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Page last modified: 01-08-2021 14:07:29 ZULU