PARIS: C919 to cut first metal in December

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Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China (Comac) aims to have first metal cut for its C919 narrowbody in December 2011.

The programme, which has embarked on its detailed design phase, will transition into the manufacturing phase at the end of the year, said Comac vice-president and C919 chief designer Wu Guanghui.

Comac will use a third-generation aluminium lithium alloy for the C919's fuselage. The wings and wingboxes will be made of aluminium, while the moveable wing parts and the tail will be made from composite materials, said Wu.

First delivery of the C919 is scheduled in the second half of 2016. Wu declined to be drawn into comparisons between the C919 and Airbus A320neo, which is also scheduled to enter into service in the same year. CFM International's Leap X1C engine will power the C919, while its Leap-X1A is one of two engines being offered for the A320neo.

"Our product is a brand new aircraft, unlike the A320neo which is a re-engined aircraft. We plan to use the engine to its full potential," said Wu.

Comac is also studying changes to the C919's seats to make it more attractive to potential customers, he added. The narrowbody is configured with 3-3 seating and Comac is considering widening the middle seat in each row.

"Usually, passengers avoid sitting in the middle seat and we want to make this more comfortable, perhaps by widening the seat by 0.5in [1.3cm] to 1in," said Wu.