C919 jet ready to take flight and join world elite

China's self-developed passenger jet C919 has completed its second test flight.
Zhang Haifeng

China's home-developed C919 airliner takes off on its second test flight from Shanghai's Pudong International Airport on September 28. The plane's success now means it can compete against the Airbus 320 and Boeing's latest 737 for orders worldwide.

China's self-developed passenger jet C919 has completed its second test flight.

The jet, coded 10101, took off from Shanghai Pudong International Airport at around 7:20am on September 28 and reached an altitude of 10,000 feet during its 2 hours and 46 minutes of flight, twice the time and airspace of its maiden voyage in May.

It flew north to Chongming Island and over Nantong in the neighboring Jiangsu Province, where it circled before heading home.

Cai Jun, captain on the maiden flight, also had the privilege of being the test pilot for the C919's second flight.

The successful test flight of C919 made China the fourth jumbo jet producer after the United States, Western Europe and Russia. As China's first domestically developed narrow-body twin-jet airliner, it also caught the world's attention.

With a standard range of 4,075 kilometers, the jet is comparable with the updated Airbus 320 and Boeing's new generation 737.

The C919 single-aisle aircraft made its maiden flight from the same airport on May 5.

Second flight

During the second flight, the plane completed its first test of lowering and lifting its landing gear in the air, among other missions, according to the Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China (COMAC).

The plane 10101, and five other jets of the same type, need to pass around 500 checks during future test flights in the next three or four years, which includes tasks containing low, medium and high risks. Extreme conditions, such as extremely hot, humid, cold or strong side wind tests are future challenges that the fleet of six must conquer before they receive airworthiness certification.

The six C919 jets need to pass all of the flying tests before the aircraft begins commercial operations in 2020.

The ARJ21 was the first short-medium range turbofan regional aircraft independently developed by China in accordance with international civil aviation regulations. However, some industry insiders indicated that the C919 had made great progress in design, development and other aspects, compared with ARJ21, and hence more suitable for airworthiness certification requirements.

At the same time, with the experience accumulated from ARJ21's airworthiness certification, the exam syllabus will be clearer for the C919 while some mistakes and setbacks can be avoided.

On the premise of ensuring the safe operation of an aircraft, it is expected to shorten the time of airworthiness certification, compared with ARJ21, according to the head of COMAC flight test center.

At present, test flights are still based at the Pudong airport. After that the aircraft will be moved to Yanliang, in northwest China's Shaanxi Province, to do the test.

A second C919 aircraft made for test flights has rolled off the production line at a COMAC plant in Shanghai. This second plane is expected to make its first flight later this year, COMAC said.


A mock cockpit of the C919 on display at the Shanghai International Science Expo this year generates a lot of interest from young airplane enthusiasts.

More tests

The first C919 is being used to test flying conditions, onboard equipment and landing gear, while the second will undergo tests on the engine and fuel systems.

The aircraft rolled off the assembly line in Shanghai in November 2015, a milestone for the nation's entry into the global aviation market as a strong competitor.

COMAC was established in Shanghai in 2008 to take charge of developing the C919 project.

The company has so far secured 730 orders from 27 foreign and domestic customers, including national carrier Air China and leasing company GE Capital Aviation Service.

Overseas orders, which account for around 10 percent of the total, include Germany's PuRen Airlines and Thailand's City Airways, as well as carriers from Asia-Pacific and Africa. The number of orders increased by around 200 after the success of the plane's maiden flight, COMAC said.

In terms of global aviation, China is thinking big. It has been on a three-decade quest to rise to the ranks of nations capable of designing and manufacturing commercial aircrafts.

Y10, China's first commercial jet, was designed in the 1970s. The 125-seat Y10 flew for more than 170 hours in test flights between 1980 and 1984, but the project was scuttled before reaching commercial viability because of economic and political factors. Despite the setbacks and frustrations, China's commercial aircraft industry has never looked back. Its progress has been supported by thousands of engineers and aircraft designers.

Part of 'Chinese Dream'

The development of a domestically developed large passenger aircraft is "part of the Chinese Dream," COMAC said.

"The project highlights the demands of China's fast growing economy and the rapid development of the nation's civil aviation industry," a spokesman for the company said.

Predications are that Chinese airlines will need more than 6,800 new aircraft in the next two decades.

Furthermore, the aircraft industry is seen as a lynchpin in China's industrial modernization.

Booming prospects

Boeing has said that every 1 percent increase in the sales of airliners expands the national economy by 0.7 percent. The State Council, China's cabinet, has designated the aeronautical industry as one of 10 pillars in its plan to make China a global manufacturing giant by 2025.

COMAC and partner United Aircraft Corp of Russia announced that the first long-haul jet developed jointly by both countries will be named CR929, symbolizing the "enduring cooperation of the two sides."

The wide-body jet will seat 280 people and have a range of up to 12,000 kilometers. It is scheduled to make its maiden flight in 2025 and begin deliveries in 2028, according to the China-Russia Commercial Aircraft International Corp, a joint venture based in Shanghai's Free Trade Zone in Pudong New Area.

Meanwhile, two ARJ21s began commercial operations last year with Chengdu Airlines.

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