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More policy support coming for C919 aircraft

LMS| Updated: February 1, 2024


Passengers board a C919 aircraft in China Eastern Airlines' fleet at Shanghai Hongqiao International Airport on Jan 9. [YIN LIQIN/CHINA NEWS SERVICE]

China will step up commercial operations and exports of the domestically developed and manufactured C919 aircraft this year, the industry regulator said.

The model is expected to corner about one-fifth to one-fourth of the domestic single-aisle aircraft market over the long term if delivery capabilities can keep pace, the expert added.

The Civil Aviation Administration of China said the government will further develop supportive policies for the operation of both the C919 and ARJ21 aircraft, and help expand the operational scale and quality of domestically built civil aircraft.

"We will help promote the accreditation review of the C919 by the European Aviation Safety Agency this year, promote the exports of the model and help ensure the delivery of qualified products," said Song Zhiyong, head of the administration.

Shanghai-based China Eastern Airlines, the first customer of the C919, has put four C919 planes into commercial use.

During the Spring Festival travel rush, which began on Friday and will last until March 5, the carrier plans to put the four planes into regular round-trip routes that connect Shanghai with Beijing Daxing International Airport, as well as Shanghai and Chengdu, in Southwest China's Sichuan province.

The C919 jet completed 655 commercial flights and carried nearly 82,000 passengers by the end of last year. In December, Air China said it would purchase six C919 jets, with deliveries expected between 2024 and 2025.

So far, the C919, comparable to the narrow-body Airbus A320 and the Boeing B737 series, has netted 1,061 orders from home and abroad, according to Commercial Aircraft Corp of China, the aircraft's manufacturer.

As the global air travel market continues to recover after the COVID-19 outbreak, especially in China, the C919 is expected to meet growing travel demand and break the market duopoly of Boeing and Airbus.

"A key issue is the improvement of the production capacity of COMAC to ensure the delivery of more than 1,000 aircraft on time. If the production capacity reaches a relatively high level, it is expected to net more new orders," said Zou Jianjun, a professor at the Civil Aviation Management Institute of China.

"If countries and regions involved in the Belt and Road Initiative accept the accreditation of the C919 by the CAAC, it will be convenient for the aircraft model to operate there," Zou said.

China is expected to handle a record-high 80 million air passenger trips, or 2 million daily, during this year's Spring Festival travel rush, up 9.8 percent over the same period of 2019 before the pandemic, according to a projection by the CAAC.

Meanwhile, US aircraft manufacturer Boeing recently announced a complete return of its single-aisle B737 MAX aircraft to commercial services in China, indicating that the technical and safety issues of the past have been tackled in the country.

The development marks a milestone for Boeing's operations in China, as deliveries of Boeing aircraft to Chinese carriers were largely suspended after two fatal crashes of the B737 MAX, which led to the grounding of the aircraft model worldwide before it resumed flights gradually since late 2020.

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