BEIJING, China: During a ceremony this week, China certified its C919 narrow-body passenger jet, which is part of the country’s plans to challenge the dominance of Airbus and Boeing in the commercial air industry.
Manufactured by state-owned aircraft company Commercial Aircraft Corp. of China, the plane was expected to be certified by the end of the month, after two C919s flew to Beijing on 13th September.
Launched 14 years ago and designed to carry up to 168 passengers, the C919 will compete against Airbus’ A320neo and Boeing’s 737 MAX families in China, the world’s second-largest aviation market.
Despite being assembled in China, the C919 relies heavily on components, such as engines and avionics, made by Western companies, including GE, Safran and Honeywell International.
Until China can replace foreign engines and components with locally-made technology, strict U.S. export licensing rules will cause delays in sourcing parts and pose risks to Chinese production.
Richard Aboulafia, managing director of AeroDynamic Advisory in the U.S., said the plane seems like a relic of a bygone era of increasing integration between China and the West.
“Therefore, we have an aircraft that is only superficially Chinese, but is actually powered by Western technologies and systems. Turning it into a genuine Chinese aircraft would take well over a decade and many billions of dollars,” he said, as quoted by Reuters.
After the plane’s operating certificate was granted this week, it can now be delivered to its first customer, China Eastern Airlines, but local media reported it is unlikely to enter commercial service until next year.
A research note by Huaxi Securities released this month said, “The C919 will gradually begin to replace single-aisle aircraft made by Boeing and Airbus. In
the next 20 years, China’s demand for narrow-body passenger aircraft like the C919 will be, on average, 300 per year.”
For many years, the European Union Aviation Safety Agency has worked on a certification validation process for the C919, stating, “We cannot comment on the date when this validation would be completed.”
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