PICTURE: Comac on verge of starting C919 final assembly

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Comac is expecting to start final assembly of its first C919 flight test aircraft at the end of the month.

In an exclusive tour of its in-construction final assembly centre near Shanghai’s Pudong International airport, Comac showed Flightglobal the first C919 forward fuselage produced. The part, manufactured by Jiangxi Hongdu Aviation Industry, is also the first major C919 structure delivered to the airframer.

The aluminium-lithium alloy structure is housed at the sub assembly hangar, as the airframer awaits delivery of the aircraft’s mid fuselage, mid-aft fuselage and nose. The first of these parts have all rolled off the respective manufacturers’ production lines.

"Under the current timeline, we can start fusing of the first aircraft in end September, early October," says Li Hu, assistant general manager of Comac’s final assembly centre, adding that the plan is also to join the aircraft's wings and tail this year.

The C919's wings, to be produced by Xian Aircraft, are still being manufactured.

asset image

Mavis Toh/Flightglobal

Li says final assembly of an aircraft typically takes four to five months, but that he expects Comac to take a longer time to fuse its very first C919.

To ensure as smooth an assembly process as possible, the airframer is also getting experienced engineers and technicians involved in the final assembly of the ARJ21 to work on the C919, he adds.

Much progress has been made at Comac's final assembly centre since Flightglobal visited a year ago when construction was still in its early stages.

Construction of the final assembly and sub assembly hangars for the C919 have since been completed, and two autoclaves have been installed at its composites hangar.

The sub-assembly hangar for its ARJ21 facility is however still undergoing construction, while land has also been set aside for a future widebody production line.

Li adds that Comac would possibly be using the airport's newly built fourth runway exclusively for C919's flight test works, before construction of the fifth runway is complete. A taxiway has also been built, linking Comac's facility to the fourth and fifth runway.

Comac is working towards an end-2015 first flight target for the C919. The programme has so far garnered 400 commitments, mostly from Chinese airlines and leasing companies.