COMAC C919 Moves Closer to European Market with Upcoming EASA Visit

A delegation of technicians and officials from the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) will visit China next month to conduct field tests as a preliminary step towards the start of the European certification process for the COMAC C919 aircraft, a model with which the country aims to compete against the A320 and B737 families.

According to the South China Morning Post, citing sources close to the matter, the delegation will participate in simulation flights, meet with the COMAC design team, and with their counterparts from the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC).

This will include a visit to the C919 assembly line and a detailed examination of the aircraft with the intention of performing the first certification flight in early 2025, although the date is not yet fully confirmed, the Chinese media reports, adding that in recent months several high-profile meetings have taken place between Chinese and European regulators.

The Chinese government hopes that European certification will open new markets for the C919, a model that has accumulated more than 1,000 orders, the vast majority from local airlines.

The C919 debuted in commercial service in May of last year, and since then six aircraft have already been delivered to China Eastern Airlines.

Unlike other commercial jets manufactured in China (such as the Y-10 or the ARJ-21), the C919 was designed from scratch by local teams. The manufacturing process began in 2011, and the first aircraft flew in 2017, obtaining Chinese certification in 2022.

The C919 has versions with different seating capacities (from 158 to 190), similar to Western competitors from Airbus and Boeing. The average flight range of the C919 is about 4,075 km, with a maximum range of 5,500 km, and it can fly at an altitude of up to 12,000 m.

Difficulties of the C919

The development of the “A320/737 killer” was not without complications. Since its presentation in 2008, COMAC faced problems with the supply of spare parts from its suppliers and the tightening of export controls by the United States.

Since December 2020, the North American country has required special licenses to export parts and technological assistance to any company with ties to the Chinese military. This measure particularly affected the development of the program, which had already suffered delays in its initial schedule.

Although the aircraft is assembled in China, it relies heavily on Western components. The powerplant and avionics, two key elements in the development of a new aircraft, are not produced in the Asian country. As a result, the project became more vulnerable to international restrictions on exports and technology transfers.

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