Comac Forges Ahead with C919 Flight Tests

 - July 26, 2019, 11:56 AM
The third Comac C919 has flown to Xi'an, where it is joining the model's flight-test program. (Photo: Comac)

A third prototype of Comac’s C919 narrowbody passenger jet flew from the company's Shanghai production facility to its flight test operation in Xi’an, in central China, Friday in preparation for a new round of flight tests. 

According to Comac, prototype 103 took off from Shanghai Pudong International Airport at 6:32 a.m. local time and remained airborne for 2 hours 39 minutes before landing safely at Xi'an’s Yanliang Aviation Industrial Base. The manufacturer said the prototype will initially undergo a series of modifications before it begins flutter and airspeed calibration testing. Engineering teams will also carry out operational, performance, and load tests. Aircraft 103 completed its inaugural flight last December, having flown for 1 hour 38 minutes. 

Meanwhile, Comac’s first prototype, 101, continues its flight-test campaign at Xi’an while aircraft 102 undergoes flight testing at Dongying Shengli Airport in east China's Shandong Province. Prototype 101 completed its long-delayed first flight in May 2017 followed by a long-distance test flight six months later. Aircraft 102 conducted a successful two-hour first flight in December of that year and both prototypes flew again in June 2018 as part of a control-stability test and systems check. 

In a bid to accelerate its flight-test campaign, Comac plans to fly an additional three C919 prototypes this year. Coded 104, 105, and 106, the three prototypes have reached various stages of development. Once complete, they will join the flight-test program, bringing the total number of C919s to six.  

Comac has scheduled the six prototypes to collectively pass through some 729 test items and 4,200 hours of flight before the C919 obtains certification from the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC). China’s first indigenous airliner, the ARJ21, logged 5,000 hours before receiving CAAC certification.

In a separate development, Chinese start-up Genghis Khan Airlines launched commercial operations Friday from its base at Hohhot Baita International Airport to Ulanhot Airport, effectively becoming the second operator of the ARJ21 after Comac-owned Chengdu Airlines. Based in Inner Mongolia, the newly established carrier is the first to commit to operating a fleet consisting solely of the Chinese-made regional jet. Initial routes include connecting to destinations in Inner Mongolia.

Genghis Khan took delivery of its first ARJ21-700 on February 22 and its second on June 6. The carrier expects to take delivery of two more ARJ21s this year. Plans call for a fleet of 25 jets, powered by General Electric CF34-10A engines, to operate 60 routes to 40 destinations within five years.