EASA Delegation to Assess China’s COMAC C919 for Potential Certification

Next month, a delegation composed of technicians and officials from the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) is scheduled to travel to China for a series of field tests on the COMAC C919 aircraft, marking a preliminary move towards initiating the European certification process. According to the South China Morning Post, the delegation’s agenda includes simulation flights and discussions with both the COMAC design team and representatives from the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC).

The visit will also encompass a thorough inspection of the C919’s assembly line and a detailed examination of the aircraft, paving the way for a potential first certification flight slated for early 2025, though the date remains tentative.

Challenges and Prospects of the C919

Dubbed as the potential “A320/737 killer,” the C919 represents China’s ambitious endeavor to penetrate the market dominated by Airbus and Boeing. However, the project has faced significant hurdles since its unveiling in 2008, primarily due to issues in the supply chain and increased export controls imposed by the United States since December 2020. These restrictions have necessitated special licenses for exporting parts and technological services to entities linked with the Chinese military, complicating the development timeline for COMAC.

Despite these obstacles, the C919, which commenced commercial operations with China Eastern Airlines in May of the previous year, relies heavily on Western technology for critical components such as the powerplant and avionics. This dependency underscores the complexities of developing a globally competitive aircraft under the shadow of geopolitical tensions.

The C919, which achieved Chinese certification in 2022, is offered in versions seating between 158 to 190 passengers. It boasts an average flight range of 4,075 km, with a maximum capacity of 5,500 km, and can reach altitudes up to 12,000 meters.

As the Chinese government eyes European certification to broaden its market horizons, the upcoming EASA visit could be a significant milestone for the C919, which has already secured over 1,000 orders, predominantly from domestic carriers. The aircraft’s journey from concept to commercialization reflects both the ambitions and the challenges inherent in entering the high-stakes arena of global aviation manufacturing.

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