The Comac C919 narrowbody programme appears to have hit a roadblock, months before its targeted service entry.
A 27 September report from Reuters, citing unnamed sources, says the programme — touted to be a homegrown competitor to Airbus’ A320 family and Boeing’s 737 programme — faces the likelihood of missing “certification and production targets”, amid stricter US export rules.
Though a Chinese aircraft programme, the C919 is largely reliant on Western technologies — the aircraft is powered by two CFM International Leap-1C turbofans, for example.
Since December 2020, the US tightened export regulations to China, with companies deemed as having links to the Chinese military subject to special export licensing requirements.
According to the Reuters report, Western suppliers to the C919 programme are “gradually receiving” their special licences to export to China, but the slower-than-expected pace has thrown the C919 certification and production timeline into disarray.
The sources told Reuters that early production would be most affected by the latest hiccup, adding to the woes of the much-delayed programme.
Reuters’ sources also state that Comac is “preoccupied” with clocking the mandatory test flight hours needed for Chinese certification, which it hopes to clinch by year-end.
As recently as early September, Comac says that the first C919 — to be delivered to launch customer China Eastern Airlines — will be entering final production “soon”, and that it hopes to deliver the example by year-end.
China Eastern has firm orders for five C919s. The Shanghai-based carrier a letter of intent for 20 C919s in 2010.
News of delays facing the C919 programme also come a day before the opening of the 2021 edition of Airshow China in Zhuhai.
The C919, which has never before appeared at China’s premiere airshow, will be absent again this year.