The first COMAC C919 has been delivered to China Eastern and will soon enter commercial service. While the ramp-up will be slow, COMAC now has orders for more than 1,100 C919 aircraft from Chinese airlines and leasing companies.

For the West, that means 1,100 aircraft that Boeing or Airbus won’t produce, which would be valued at roughly $100 billion at list prices. The potential market for the COMAC C919 is just beginning to be felt and could double should China seek to mandate the C919 for Chinese airlines and seek to export the aircraft to China’s trading partners in Africa. The belt and road now has an airborne element that can be added to its economic cooperation package.

China has taken a long-term perspective on aviation, and while the ramp-up of the C919 will likely be slow in the near term, by western standards, orders and deliveries will continue to grow. The program has already generated enough orders to be commercially successful from the domestic Chinese market alone. While we will need to wait to observe the in-service reliability of the aircraft and COMAC’s support infrastructure in action, the COMAC C919 does provide China with a homegrown and economically competitive option that is an upgrade to the A320ceo and 737NG families.  The operating economics of the C919 fall just short of the A320neo and 737 MAX families but are very close and quite competitive.

The challenge is the follow-up, continuous improvement, and moving to the second large aircraft, the wide-body CR929. That project will build on the experience in developing and certifying the C919 as China grows its industry with a long-term horizon of being a major player in international aerospace.

The first COMAC C919 has been delivered to China Eastern and will soon enter commercial service. While the ramp-up will be slow, COMAC now has orders for more than 1,100 C919 aircraft from Chinese airlines and leasing companies.

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