She was late for years and missed a number of appointments. But the Comac C919 met this deadline: at the end of October it was announced that China Eastern Airlines should receive the first example of the aircraft, which was developed entirely in China, in mid-December.

And that has now actually happened. On Friday (December 9), the airline received the short and medium-haul aircraft with the registration number B-919A. Delivery flight MU919 departed from Shanghai Pudong Airport to nearby Shanghai Hongqiao Airport.

Comac specifies the range of the C919 as 4075 to 5555 kilometers. It can be equipped with 158 to 192 seats. China Eastern opted for 164 seats – eight in business class and 156 in economy class. Under the windows of the first rows of seats is written on the fuselage of the B-919A in English: “The world’s first C919”, i.e. “The first C919 in the world”.

Originally, Comac had planned to hand over the first C919 to a customer as early as 2016. But there were repeated delays and it was not until September 2022 that the model finally received type certification in China. According to the group, there are now orders for a total of 1115 copies – all from customers in China.

The C919 is intended to compete with the Airbus A320 Neo and Boeing 737 Max in China. More than 1,100 jets from the Airbus A320 family and 1,200 Boeing 737 NG are in service in the country – and will eventually have to be replaced. A big advantage of the C919 is the price of around 95 million euros. That is almost 20 percent less than an Airbus A320 Neo costs.

Comac is also hoping for respectable successes abroad, for example in Nigeria. The question of possible international success on a large scale depends on many factors. For example, John Plueger, head of leasing giant ALC, told aeroTELEGRAPH in around 2019 that Comac planes would be potential candidates “if one day you see a sufficient number of airlines with a strong interest around the world.

“But I think we’re still a long way from that,” Plueger said at the time. “I’m not so much concerned with the brand-new aircraft, but with subsequent leasing as used aircraft with the second and third operators,” said the head of the American leasing company.

“You have to have a very strong customer base for that.” There was also the question of the manufacturer’s ability to provide support for the aircraft wherever they were deployed around the world, Plueger said.

However, the interest of international leasing companies is not likely to be particularly important to Comac at first. The most recent orders for a total of 300 Comac C919 came from seven Chinese leasing companies.

This article was written by Timo Nowack

The original of this article “The aircraft revolution is now beginning in China after years of delay” comes from aeroTelegraph.