SINGAPORE: Comac cuts down on composite use for C919

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Comac says it has cut down on the use of composites on its C919 narrowbody to under 10%, in an attempt to keep costs, as well as the programme's schedule in check.

Speaking to Flightglobal on the sidelines of the Singapore air show, Dang Tiehong, its deputy general manager for sales and marketing says that only parts such as the aircraft's belly fairings and the tail and its movable structure, will be made of composites.

"We brought down the use of composites to bring down costs and time and also because of safety, as the composites' maturity must be able to meet our needs," he explains.

Comac had initially started out with the aim of using composite materials on more than 15% of its in-development narrowbody.

Asked whether issues in the certification of its ARJ21 regional jet will impact its C919 in terms of attaining certification from the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), Dang says: "I feel there will definitely be some impact. Though it's two different independent programmes, they will not be completely separate."

He adds that Comac will first focus on working towards securing certification from the Civil Aviation Administration of China for its narrowbody, before it works to achieve FAA certification. This is especially since most of its customers are Chinese airlines and leasing companies, and that a Chinese certification would allow the aircraft to at least fly domestically.

"We have ambitions of getting FAA certification. It's not realistic for us to only fly and sell the plane in China. We will need to face the issue of securing FAA and EASA certification," says Dang.

Comac has so far secured commitments for 400 C919s. Its ARJ21 regional jet, which took its first flight in 2008, is still undergoing flight tests and certification.