The first Comac C919 narrowbody bound for launch customer China Eastern Airlines will “soon” enter final assembly, as the Chinese airframer hopes to deliver the aircraft by year-end.

The C919 programme certification board — responsible for granting the aircraft programme its type certificate — met on 10 September, states the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) on social media.

Comac C919 during its first flight in 2017 c Creative Commons

Source: Creative Commons

One of the five C919 test aircraft in service currently.

The board reviewed reports on the batch production of the aircraft, and subsequently approved Comac’s proposal to tweak plans to obtain the aircraft’s production certificate, a prerequisite for aircraft mass production.

Pictures on Chinese social networking site Weibo indicates that final assembly of the first aircraft’s fuselage structure is largely complete. Part of the aircraft’s tailfin is also painted in what appears to be China Eastern’s livery.

Comac, which has not publicly commented on the CAAC’s latest announcement, hopes to receive the C919’s airworthiness certificate by the end of the year, allowing it to commence deliveries.

China Eastern in March firmed up orders for five C919s, and forecast taking delivery of the type in the second half of the year. It said in March that the five C919s will be based in Shanghai, and will operate to major Chinese cities, including Beijing, Guangzhou, Chengdu and Xiamen.

The announcement on 14 September marks a milestone for the narrowbody programme, seen as China’s attempt to break up the narrowbody duopoly held by Boeing and Airbus.

Cirium fleets data indicates there are 303 C919s on order with a mixture of airlines and lessors.