Orders for the Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China, Ltd.’s (COMAC) new C919 passenger jet have now reached a total 165 aircraft with the recent addition of orders from ICBC Financial Leasing Company (45) and from Sichuan Airlines (20).
These airlines join Air China, China Eastern, China Southern, Hainan Airlines, CDB Leasing Company and GE Capital Aviation Services (GECAS) as C919 customers. COMAC has forecasted global sales of more than 2 000 C919 aircraft over the 20 years following entry into service.
ICBC Leasing signed the deal with COMAC, China’s state-owned aircraft maker, on October 19 to expand its fleet to meet the country’s rapidly growing demand for air travel. ICBC Leasing currently has 70 passenger planes. It ordered an additional 42 A320s from Airbus in June.
Sichuan Airlines, partly owned by China Southern Airlines, ordered an initial 20 C919s late last month.
As the country’s first homegrown large commercial aircraft, C919 is designed to compete with Boeing’s 737 and Airbus’s A320 in the narrow-body segment. The test flights for the single-aisle, 150-seat C919 are scheduled for 2014 and delivery is slated for 2016.
At the Zhuhai Airshow last year, COMAC received orders from four Chinese airlines and two leasing firms for a total of 100 C919s.
Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary, who signed a deal with COMAC earlier this year to help it design a rival to Boeing’s 737, said the American manufacturer risked falling behind its Asian rival if it doesn’t roll out a new plane soon.
“COMAC’s C919 will be a very serious alternative … it will put a large hole in the Boeing and Airbus narrow-body order program from 2016,” O’Leary.
“There is no technological gap, it’s all sub assembly,” he said. “If you go forward 10 or 20 years the Chinese will be equally as strong as Airbus or Boeing.”
Ryanair, which currently flies only Boeing jets, in May said it had met with officials from the Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China and Russian rival United Aircraft.
Ryanair would like to make a major plane order in 2015-2016, although that is not set in stone, O’Leary said. The key is a plane with closer to 200 seats than the 189 on its 737 fleet, which would allow it to make savings on cabin crew costs.
The C919 will be built with 168-190 seats. CFM International will supply a version of the LEAP-X engine, the LEAP-X1C, to power the aircraft. The LEAP engine, formally launched in 2008, is a totally new centerline engine on track for testing in 2013. CFM has a dedicated team of about 20 people who work directly with COMAC in Shanghai. Hundreds of engineers are also working on the LEAP-X1C engine back at the headquarters of CFM’s parent companies, General Electric and Snecma.
The C919 will have a payload of 20 metric tonnes. Its cruise speed will be Mach 0.785 and it will have a maximum altitude of 12 100 metres (39,800 feet).
There will be two variants. The standard version will have a range of 4,075 km, with the extended-range version able to fly 5,555 km.
According to a film shown by Comac at the 2010 Zhuhai Airshow, the company plans to build six different models of the aircraft: a base passenger aircraft with 168 seats, as well as stretched and shrunk passenger versions, business jet and freighter models, and a type designated only as “special.”