China’s big three carriers – Air China, China Eastern Airlines and China Southern Airlines – are expected to be the launch customers for the planned Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China (Comac) C919 aircraft.
The three will probably place their order during this year’s Airshow China, which will be held in Zhuhai in November. The decision was made by representatives from the three airlines, state-owned manufacturer Comac and top brass from the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) at a closed-door meeting on the C919 project in Beijing on 18 May.
According to a CAAC official who spoke to Asian Aviation on the condition of anonymity, the three airlines have expressed interest in supporting the C919 project with input and orders.
Two other carriers – Shenzhen Airlines, which is controlled by Air China, and Shanghai Airlines, controlled by China Eastern – are also understood to have expressed interest in orders. The official declined to confirm this, saying only that time will tell.
Comac, which is responsible for design and manufacture of the aircraft, expects to sell 2,000 to 2,200 C919s over 20 years, with most going to Chinese airlines. The design phase is to be completed by the end of this year or early January 2011, with the first test flight expected in 2014 and certification two years later.
The aircraft will seat 150-160 passengers in a two-class layout or 180-190 in a single-class configuration, depending on customer specifications. It will be China’s first indigenous narrowbody jetliner, not-counting the smaller ARJ21 regional jet, and is expected to compete with the Boeing 737 and Airbus A320 in the international and Chinese market for orders.
Boeing currently has a 53 percent share of China commercial jetliner market, while Airbus holds about 43 percent.
Meanwhile, Hamilton Sundstrand has secured a US$1 billion contract to provide electrical power generation and distribution systems for the C919. The contract is valid for the duration of the programme.
The US aerospace giant will set up a joint venture company with Aviation Industry Corp of China (AVIC) System to develop and manufacture the systems. Hamilton Sundstrand, a subsidiary of United Technologies, is also the supplier for the electrical power, high-lift actuation and fire-protection systems for the ARJ21.
Honeywell International will supply the aircraft’s auxiliary power unit and related equipment, while Parker Hannifin won contracts for components including the fuel and hydraulic systems.
Liebherr-Aerospace will supply the C919’s air management system and Goodrich will provide exterior lighting. The contracts specify that Honeywell, Parker Hannifin, Liebherr and Goodrich all have to find Chinese partners for the programme.