The first C919 narrow-body passenger jet, which is set to be delivered to China Eastern Airlines before the year-end, will enter the final assembly stage soon, said its manufacturer Commercial Aircraft Corp of China or COMAC at a recent meeting in Shanghai.
COMAC said the domestically manufactured C919 model is on the fast track to receiving airworthiness certification before its commercial debut.
The C919 production certification board, which is responsible for granting the production and type certificates to the aircraft model, held a meeting on Sept 10 in Shanghai and reviewed COMAC's reports on batch producing the jet.
During the meeting, the board members visited the production line of the C919 and learnt more details about composite materials applied in the aircraft, the East China Regional Administration of the Civil Aviation Administration of China said on its official WeChat account.
"Entering the final assembly stage stands as an important milestone for an aircraft before its delivery. This indicates that home-built large-scale passenger jet is about to officially enter the commercial market," said Lin Zhijie, an aviation industry analyst and a columnist at Carnoc, one of the largest civil aviation websites in China.
COMAC started manufacturing the first C919 aircraft in late 2019, and now the manufacturing work has achieved phased progress. Since its maiden test flight conducted in May 2017, six C919 prototypes have been undergoing a series of rigorous tests.
In March, the launch customer China Eastern inked a deal with COMAC for the purchase of five C919 planes, which is also the first official order that COMAC received globally.
So far, 815 intended and confirmed orders have been placed for the C919 from home and abroad. The manufacture of the C919 will involve the Chinese aviation industry in the world's aircraft supply chain system. Its competitors include aircraft models such as the single-aisle B737 of Boeing Co and the A320 of Airbus.
Meanwhile, Boeing has further raised its forecast for aircraft demand in China. Over the next 20 years, Chinese carriers are expected to buy 8,700 new airplanes, the US aircraft manufacturer said in its latest Commercial Market Outlook released on Tuesday.
"According to the new forecast by Boeing, the market potential for commercial aircraft is huge. Currently, Boeing and Airbus form a duopoly in the trunk airliner market. The upcoming delivery of the C919 indicates that COMAC will provide new transportation solutions and more choices for airlines in the global market," Lin said.
China's domestic air travel market is steadily picking up, with the COVID-19 pandemic brought under better control by and large across the country, sporadic outbreaks notwithstanding.
The number of scheduled flights in the domestic market has reached about 80 percent of the level recorded in 2019, before the outbreak of the COVID-19, according to the CAAC.