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COMAC’s C919 Begins Commercial Service in China

China Eastern’s first C919 (Photo: N509FZ, CC BY-SA 4.0 , via Wikimedia Commons)

On the morning of May 28, COMAC’s C919 started its maiden flight from Shanghai’s Hongqiao International Airport to Beijing’s Capital International Airport. The China Eastern flight MU9191 took off at 10:32 a.m. local time, and landed at 12:31 p.m., after two hours of flight time. In the coming month, China Eastern scheduled its C919 on the route between Shanghai Hongqiao and Chengdu Tianfu with one round trip every day.

The first flight of COMAC C919 was highly anticipated by the public. While the flight MU9191 was in the air, it was the #1 tracked flight on Flightradar24. Local aviation enthusiasts were also grouped around airports to capture this historical flight as it takes off and lands.

Onboard the Flight

Passengers onboard the flight includes representatives from COMAC and China Eastern, government officials, local media, and a handful of aviation enthusiasts who were chosen from the pool of a lucky draw. Along with those passengers, there were the director of CAAC, the president of China Eastern, and the president of COMAC.

For this special flight, China Eastern specially designed a boarding pass reflecting the maiden flight of COMAC C919. Before the flight, passengers are invited to join a celebration at the China Eastern hanger at Shanghai’s Hongqiao International Airport. In the air, cakes were served to all passengers onboard, along with a special meal that was selected through an online vote, and even the water bottle was printed with “maiden flight of C919.”

The First C919 In Service

The first COMAC C919 in service, B-919A, was delivered to China Eastern on Dec. 9, 2022, shortly after the aircraft was fully certified by the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) in September 2022. A 100-hour flight testing began right after the delivery and was completed by February 2023. Afterward, the aircraft was sent back to the COMAC factory at Shanghai’s Pudong International Airport for further testing and modification and was pushed out of the factory in early May. After another 70-hour flight test was done during May, the aircraft was finally ready to begin commercial service by May 28.

The Comac C919 after receiving its type inspection authorization. (Photo: Comac)

As the first Chinese-designed, mid-sized single-aisle aircraft, the COMAC C919 was considered to be a long-term competitor with Boeing’s 737 MAX and Airbus’ A320neo. As of the moment, the second C919 was already rolled out of the production line, and it is planned to deliver to China Eastern in the latter half of this year. COMAC has not released any future delivery plans, however, the initial customers of C919 will likely be the “Big Three” Chinese airlines: China Eastern, China Southern, and Air China.

Based on the initial feedback of the first passengers onboard the COMAC C919, the experience on the flight was not quite different from what it is on a Boeing 737 or Airbus A320.

Editor’s Note: Stay tuned for additional coverage on the C919’s rollout into commercial service. 

Lei Yan

Author

  • Lei Yan

    Lei is from Inner Mongolia, China, and now lives in Guangzhou. He grew up in an aviation family, where his passion began. During his time at Penn State University, he studied Industrial Engineering specializing in operations research, and he graduated with an honor’s thesis on airport gate assignment optimization. Now, he is a Purchasing Manager with Procter & Gamble. In his free time, he enjoys flying, reading, and wandering around the city.

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