Comac has an internal target for the C919 to take its first flight in February 2017, sources tell FlightGlobal.
They add that the timeline is “challenging but realistic”, and that the aircraft is “very close” to being ready for its maiden sortie.
Comac tells FlightGlobal that aircraft 101 conducted its first low-speed taxi test on 28 December, and that the jet has reached a state where it is fully preparing for its first flight. It declined to say when the aircraft is scheduled to fly, even as it appears certain that the programme will not meet its official first flight target of end-2016.
A 10-second video showing aircraft 101 moving very slowly has also circulated on Chinese social media.
Sources say the test threw up some “component-level issues.” While these were not insignificant, they are not forseen as major roadblocks for the programme.
The Chinese manufacturer still has a good number of integration tests to do, on top of ground tests such as ground vibration tests which will take about 20 days.
“Comac is working round the clock, the February target is challenging but realistic… the real status is that the aircraft is very close to first flight,” says one source.
The airframer is also under tremendous pressure from the government, who is paying close attention to the progress of the programme, sources add.
In early November, Comac ran the CFM International Leap-1C engines on the C919 for the first time. The engine was also certificated by the European Aviation Safety Agency and the US Federal Aviation Administration last week.
State-owned China Eastern Airlines will be the first operator of the jet.