One of COMAC's C919 aircraft (B-001E) performed two experimental test flights today. This flight is believed to be the first C919 flight since February.
COMAC conducted one flight in the morning and one in the afternoon. The morning test flight was completed near the airport, while the afternoon test flight flew further away.
The flights were conducted at the newly-built flight test base, specifically for civil aircraft models, in Weinan, Shaanxi Province.
According to FlightRadar24.com, the aircraft flew the following paths:
The long waiting first commercial operation
The first delivered C919 aircraft, with the handpicked registration number B-919A, was transferred to China Eastern Airlines. The Shanghai-based airline is the launch customer of the type, having signed a contract with COMAC in 2021 for five C919s, and has been heavily involved in the development process.
According to the official statement of China Eastern for the first C919 delivery, the first C919 will be put into commercial operation "as early as the spring of 2023" after it finishes all the relative work required by the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC), including 100 hours of proving flights.
The 100 hours of proving flight are mandatory by CAAC regulations. It is a prerequisite for a Chinese domestic airline to add a new aircraft type to its fleet for commercial operations.
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The first proving flight, MU7801, took off from Shanghai Hongqiao International Airport (SHA) at 13:25 and arrived at Beijing Capital International Airport (PEK) at 15:17 on December 26th.
As per the China Central Television (CCTV) report, the 100-hour proving flight will last until mid-February 2023, involving 9 provinces and cities and 10 airports for takeoff and landing.
However, on February 1st, 2023, the C919 aircraft was scheduled to perform a proving flight from Shanghai Hongqiao to Beijing Daxing Airport (PKX), then to Hefei Xinqiao. However, when landing at Beijing Daxing, the left engine reverse thrust malfunctioned, causing later scheduled flights from Beijing Daxing to Hefei and Hefei to Shanghai Hongqiao to be canceled. The C919 aircraft then flew directly from Beijing Daxing back to Shanghai Hongqiao Airport.
The China Eastern C919 aircraft has not conducted any flights since then. Before long, six COMAC C919 aircraft stopped flying as well. Therefore, the industry speculated that the error is not a "single malfunction", but possibly affects the entire fleet.
Now the good news is that a COMAC C919 has resumed flying. This is often the act of proving the aircraft's airworthiness to the regulator. With the regulator's approval, the China Eastern C919 could resume flying after the corresponding measures are taken. This also means the long-awaited first commercial flight is back to the schedule.
Find more news about Asian aviation here.
The prospect of the C919 program
COMAC had attracted over 1,200 orders for the C919 as of January 2023. One week ago, COMAC and Hainan Airlines Group jointly announced an order of 100 aircraft, including 60 C919s and 40 ARJ21s. This is also the first confirmed order for C919 after the 5 C919 order from China Eastern in 2021.
Despite earlier estimates of 25 C919s per year by 2030, COMAC Deputy General Manager, Zhang Yujin, said its C919 production rate plans to reach 150 annually within five years in January.
How much longer do you think it will be until the first commercial operation of the C919? Please share your thoughts with Simple Flying in the comments.