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China's rival to Boeing 737, Airbus A320 nears completion

Robert Besser
19 May 2022

BEIJING, China: The Commercial Aircraft Corp of China (Comac) completed a three-hour pre-delivery test flight of China's C919 aircraft at the Pudong International Airport in Shanghai this week, according to a statement on its website.

"This marked a successful test flight of the first C919 plane ahead of its delivery to the first customer," Comac said. "The flight test completed all the scheduled tasks, and the aircraft performed well and was in good condition."

The success of the project would be economically beneficial for China, as it could end the country's dependence on the need to purchase Boeing's 737 and Airbus' A320 single-aisle commercial aircraft, and has the potential to catapult Comac into the multibillion-dollar aviation industry.

Some 3,000 of Comac's staff had been working under "closed-loop" conditions - where they had to undergo daily tests for Covid-19 and sleep on site to ensure no contact with outsiders - to get the aircraft to its flight-ready stage, the company said.

While the C919 marks China's effort to reduce its reliance on Airbus and Boeing, the aircraft still depends on foreign companies, including General Electric and Honeywell, for many critical parts.

As relations between Beijing and Washington DC have soured, the U.S. government has tightened its regulations over the sales of aviation products to China, potentially adding hurdles to the development of the C919.

Earlier in 2020, the U.S. government was weighing whether to deny General Electric's request to provide the LEAP engines for the C919. It eventually approved the license for the jet-engine sales after then-President Donald Trump said the U.S. should not prevent companies from supplying jet engines and other components to China.

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