Business Treaveler logo

Travel news, reviews and intel for high-flyers

China Eastern Takes Delivery of World’s First Comac C919 Jet

The world's first Chinese-made medium-haul jet has been delivered to China Eastern Airlines in Shanghai

by Enrique Perrella

December 9, 2022

Photo: Courtesy of China Eastern Airlines

China Eastern Airlines has made history by taking delivery of the world’s first Comac C919 aircraft. The Chinese-manufactured plane, built to compete with the Airbus A320neo and Boeing 737 MAX, is expected to be deployed on commercial flight operations before next summer.

The aircraft program, which had suffered numerous delays due to rising geopolitical difficulties between China and the U.S., handed off its first airframe to China Eastern Airlines, the world’s seventh-largest carrier.

China Eastern became the launch customer of the aircraft type in November 2010 when it inked an order for five jets with options for 15 more. Since then, Comac’s order book has risen to amass more than 1,100 planes between firm orders, commitments, and letters of intent.

Last month, during the Zhuhai Air Show, the Chinese planemaker secured orders from multiple leasing companies for 330 new jets, including the C919 and ARJ21 regional jets. Air China, China Southern Airlines, Hainan Airlines, and ten leasing companies (including GECAS) have joined the waiting list, as the manufacturer claims to be prepared to produce 25 planes annually by 2030.

The Chinese-built plane is the first to be manufactured in China with numerous components belonging to western technology. U.S. companies GE, Honeywell, and Collins Aerospace, together with French company Safran, are responsible for the aircraft’s flight deck, flight control, and engine components, among others.

The delivery of the first C919 took place in Shanghai, less than ten days after the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) granted Comac the authorization to mass produce the new airliner.

Photo: Courtesy of China Eastern Airlines

On its delivery flight, the airplane took off from Shanghai Pudong International Airport, landing 22 minutes later at the nearby Shanghai Hongqiao International Airport.

From now on, the jet will enter a comprehensive flight testing campaign flying more than 100 hours throughout the airline’s massive domestic network. Although the plane was awarded its Chinese airworthiness certificate during the delivery ceremony in Shanghai, this flight testing and crew training process are crucial for its introduction into commercial operations next spring.

“We will seriously assume the greater political responsibility of the first aircraft to carry out the business operation of C919 in a cooperative, participatory, and hard-working manner to achieve safety, ambition, brand, and efficiency,” said Li Yangmin, general manager of China Eastern.

The new aircraft is equipped with 164 seats in a 2-2 configuration in Business Class and 3-3 in economy class and 12-inch drop-down screens for in-flight entertainment. Also, according to the airline, the plane features a super-wide cabin aisle, measuring 7.3ft-wide, and more spacious middle seats, which can measure up to 0.6 inches more than the window and aisle seats.

The new plane is joining China Eastern’s diverse fleet of 616 aircraft. The Shanghai-based carrier, which also operates the C919’s competitors, the Boeing 737 MAX—all parked due to Chinese regulators banning the aircraft from operating—and Airbus A320neo, claims the four remaining Chinese planes on order will be delivered in the next two years.