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C919 flight tests to be split across three sites

Comac will carry out its flight test programme at three different bases across the country, sources tell FlightGlobal.

The Chinese manufacturer will use six flight test prototypes, and wants to complete all necessary tests within 4,200 flight hours. It has yet to specify the sites where it plans to carry out the work.

Sources, however, tell FlightGlobal that it will conduct the tests in Shanghai, Xian and Dongying. They add that aircraft 101, 103 and 105 will be handled by the flight test centre of AVIC, while aircraft 102, 104 and 106 will be handled by Comac's flight test centre.

The first flight test prototype, which flew its maiden sortie on 5 May, is scheduled for a ferry flight to Xian in September.

"Ferrying the aircraft to the Xian flight test site for regular flight tests will be the next big milestone to watch," says one source, adding that the second flight test jet will be based at the Dongying site in Shandong province.

Comac's C919 vice-chief designer Fu Guo Hua says the second flight test prototype is in final assembly, and the target is to roll out the jet within the year. Sources add that aircraft 103 and 104 are scheduled to be rolled out in 2018.

The manufacturer's flight test manager You Li Yan says the first prototype will largely test the aircraft's platform and functionality, as well as its landing gear. The second prototype meanwhile will focus on engine, APU and fuel system tests, but also be used for some extreme weather tests.

The third jet will be trialed similar to aircraft one, while the fourth prototype will focus on avionics and electrical system tests. The fifth jet will supplement avionics tests, but also be used for tests related to environmental control systems.

Aircraft six will be configured close to a delivery aircraft, and will be used to assess overall reliability, adds You.

Fu would only say that the target is for the C919 to enter into commercial service within three years, but stressed that bumps along the way could lead to delays. Comac has so garnered commitments for 570 C919s, largely from Chinese airlines and leasing companies.

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