China’s C919 jet noses closer to European certification as regulators plan visit

The planned visit represents a step forward as Beijing lobbies to get the plane certified by European regulators, an achievement which would give prospective buyers in Europe and elsewhere greater confidence as they mull potential deals with Comac.

A date for regulators to take the Chinese plane on a special verification flight has not yet been set. It could take place later this year or in early 2025, they said.

The EASA did not immediately respond to a request from the Post for comment. Emailed requests to Comac and CAAC also went unanswered.

Chinese aviation officials have expressed optimism for speedy European endorsement of the C919 for safety and reliability, saying certification could come as soon as next year. However, Luc Tytgat, EASA’s acting executive director, was quoted by Reuters in March as saying the Chinese jet is “too new” to be approved.

After a year of domestic successes for the jet, Beijing is casting its gaze overseas. Six C919 aircraft have been delivered to Chinese airlines since the plane began commercial operations in May 2023, and it has transported a cumulative 300,000 passengers across four domestic routes. In April, the country’s three major state-owned airlines – Air China, China Eastern Airlines and China Southern Airlines – placed firm orders of 100 planes each.


China’s home-grown passenger jet C919 celebrates first anniversary of maiden flight

China’s home-grown passenger jet C919 celebrates first anniversary of maiden flight

In April, CAAC officials paid a visit to EASA headquarters in Cologne, Germany, and last month another meeting was held in the Chinese city of Xiamen. The officials compared notes on aligning regulatory frameworks and discussed cooperation to comply with international standards.

Earlier this month, regulators from both sides continued talks on the sidelines of the International Aviation Safety Conference in Washington.

“Frequent interactions will help keep up good communication and iron out any issues in cooperation, including the C919’s certification,” one source said.

The C919, which can haul up to 192 passengers and crew members up to 5,555km, is poised as a competitor to Airbus’ bestselling A320 and Boeing’s 737 series. If successful, the airliner could weaken the pair’s dominance in the Chinese skies and carve out a share of the lucrative global market.

The plane has already made some international inroads. Shortly after the C919’s debut at the Singapore Airshow in February, demonstration flights were carried out in five Southeast Asian countries. Comac’s other model, the ARJ21, has been purchased by Indonesian carrier TransNusa.

Some of C919’s most essential components come from European suppliers, which may factor into a smoother certification process. In 2016, the European regulator certified the aircraft’s engine, the LEAP-1C, simultaneously with the US’ Federal Aviation Administration. The propulsion system is supplied by CFM International, a joint venture between French aircraft engine maker Safran and the US’ GE.

Airbus, already building a second assembly line in its Tianjin factory, has outpaced Boeing as top supplier in the China market.


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