The first production aircraft of the COMAC C919 has made its maiden flight on May 14. The aircraft, painted white with China Eastern Airlines on the fuselage, performed a three hour, two minutes test flight from and to Shanghai Pudong, the Chinese airframer reported on May 14. First production COMAC C919 starts flight testing.

The aircraft flew North of Shanghai and performed a number of circuits to test all the systems, mostly keeping an altitude of between 3.000 and 3.500 feet. Only in the final part of the test, C919 with registration B-001J climbed briefly to between 4.500 and 5.000 feet, before returning to the COMAC factory at Pudong. The aircraft had been doing ground tests in the past weeks.

In a brief media release, COMAC said that the flight had been “successful”. It added: “At present, the preparation for the test flight of the C919 large aircraft and the preparation for delivery are being carried out in an orderly manner.”

China Eastern will be the first airline to receive the C919. The carrier had expected to take delivery of the first aircraft by late 2021 but this has been delayed. In January and February, certification flights suffered delays when most test aircraft were grounded in Xian following the lockdown of the city due to the severe Covid-restrictions. China Eastern’s fleet plan until 2024 includes three C919 deliveries this year and two in 2023. These are part of the first batch of five C919 that the airline confirmed on March 1, 2021, which leaves another fifteen of the original Letter of Intent that China Eastern signed back in 2010. Higher numbers are likely, as the carrier wants to place the narrowbody with some of its subsidiaries.

Back in January, COMAC said that some 240 flight hours were needed to complete the certification phase. Since then and following the relaxation of restrictions, C919s have been active again at airports across China. The first test aircraft, B-001A, is based in Xian, as are B-001D, -001E, and -001G. B-001C has been testing at Dongying and Changzhi, while B-001F is at Dongying. B-001H is based at the factory in Pudong. When the CAAC will grant COMAC the type certificate is unclear.

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Richard Schuurman
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Active as journalist since 1987, starting with regional newspaper Zwolse Courant. Grand Prix reporter in 1997 at Dutch monthly Formule 1, general reporter Lelystad/Flevoland at De Stentor/Dagblad Flevoland, from 2002 until June 2021 radio/tv reporter/presentor with Omroep Flevoland.
Since mid-2016 freelance aviation journalist, since June 2021 fully dedicated to aviation. Reporter/editor AirInsight since December 2018. Contributor to Airliner World, Piloot & Vliegtuig. Twitter: @rschuur_aero.

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