News from Singapore suggests that the C919 might be delayed again. Tracking, using Flightradar24, of the flight test aircraft show that B-001A last had activity on December 19 and there is nothing on B-001C. The second C919, B-001C had its first flight of 2018 on January 14th. The aircraft took off from Shanghai Pudong International Airport at 7:38 a.m. and landed at 10:33 after a flight of two hours and 55 minutes. A Bloomberg article points out that this flight test program is much slower than Western programs and even slower than one might have expected from an aircraft from COMAC.
Given the ARJ-21’s very long gestation, one could be skeptical of China’s aerospace ambitions. But those ambitions continue to mushroom. COMAC has an engine RFP out for the C929. The C929 is approximately sized like the A330-900.
Even if the first orders for the C929 come at the Zhuhai Airshow in November from Chinese and Russian customers, deliveries are slated for the 2027 era. Which, based on current experience, might mean more like 2030.
The C919 is long on promise. Lu Zheng, COMAC’s deputy general manager of sales and marketing, told reporters at the Singapore Airshow that they expected Chinese certification to take three to four years. “It should not have any impact” on the delivery time to the jet’s launch customer, China Eastern Airlines, he said. “We’re striving for 2021.”
COMAC has 700 orders for the C919. By the time it starts deliveries in 2021, it is likely to be substantially outdated by the current Airbus and Boeing products. Bear in mind that if Airbus and Boeing’s projects planned around the C Series and E2, respectively, are in full bloom by then the goal posts will have been moved significantly. Chinese airlines with captive C919 orders might be reluctant to take the C919 unless it has also seen improvements that keep it competitive.