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Editorial comment - July 2017

It’s good to see that the C919 has finally taken off. Could this be a small step towards COMAC becoming a competitor for Airbus and Boeing, in my lifetime? Maybe not, but having another contender in the race can only be a good thing for aircraft operators looking at this market segment
 

In a report last year, we reaffirmed how COMAC had both the government support and the resources to deliver on its promise, but as is a common occurrence in this industry, timescales will stretch. With the likelihood of many hurdles to jump, the industry will have some reservations about the project’s potential for some time yet. 

 

But getting the new bird airborne, and successfully, will bring smiles to the faces of many at COMAC. There is nothing more deterring than a troubled maiden flight.

 

The C919 is the first aircraft of its size developed entirely by China, and the folks at COMAC are clearly keen to show that it matches the standards set by the likes of Boeing and Airbus.  

 

As our report indicated, a big challenge for COMAC is the competencies gap between itself, Boeing and Airbus. The company will struggle to get close to the market leaders, particularly in areas such as problem solving and issue resolution.

 

Interestingly, COMAC says it has a total of 570 C919 orders from 23 domestic and foreign customers – that’s not a bad figure at first flight stage. 

 

Chinese airlines may receive purchasing ‘encouragement’, but ultimately the financials must stack up. Establishing operator appeal with low cost airlines or newly maturing markets is the way COMAC would like to go. Long term, revenue must be generated to fund aircraft development. 

 

The successful first flight of the C919 means that China has made clustered breakthroughs in civil aircraft technology and gained the core competencies of developing modern aircraft.

 

A total of six C919s will be put through their paces for the flight test programme and this will be the most crucial time for the ambitious OEM hoping to prove the aircraft’s worth.

 

In its current form the C919 might not hold the title of game-changer, but possibly, future versions might well do. 


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