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Aeropolitics, Airline Management, Commercial Airliners, Other Aviation Issues, Regional Aircraft, State Owned Airlines, UPDATES

SUMMARY: The Chinese COMAC C919 airliner made its first flight today (May 5, 2017), and hopefully it will not be long before it is delivered to its first customer, China Eastern. The Comac ARJ-21-700 regional jet (evolved from the locally built MD-82’s and MD-90-30’s programs) took an incredibly long 2,769 days (93.3 months or 7.6 years) from its first flight to delivery to its first customer. This C919, is NO ARJ-21, this is an aircraft China can be proud of and one that can and will compete with Airbus, Boeing, Irkut and Bombardier when it gets its EASA Type Certificate which will take time, as the shadow certification of the ARJ-21 with the FAA did not materialize. Yes, there will be many issues with very poor sales & marketing, product support and after sales service, something Comac has no experience with and AVIC is horrible at. The ARJ-21 has no FAA certification and most likely never will, and will be relegated to flying for Chinese airlines and the very few “dubious” nations that do not require EASA or FAA certification for local registration and operations. The C919 has 99 orders, 227 options and 566 “commitments” so well over its stated break-even of 400 units. A proud day indeed, given the fiasco with the ARJ-21, now Comac will work with EASA to shadow certify the C919, but that will take a few years for sure, so no immediate concerns for the other 4 competing OEM’s. Lastly, this C919 is not the first Chinese indigenous jet airliner, back in 1970 the Chinese then under Chairman Mao Zedung, developed the Shanghai Y-10, a close similarity to the Boeing B720/B707, but it started way before President Richard Nixon’s famous trip to China in 1972 with Air Force One, a C-137 Stratoliner, a modified long range Boeing B707, referred to as SAM26000 (special air mission), in service from 1962 to 1999.

With the Comac C919 making its first flight, China finally has a commercial aircraft it can be proud off, and this aircraft will be able to compete with the Airbus A320neo, Bombardier’s CS300, Irkut MC-21, Boeing B737-7 and, B737-8 in time as it will require years to get its EASA certification, but Chinese airlines who be the bulk of its customers are good with a CAAC Type Certificate.

The FlightGlobal forecast of 26,860 single aisle deliveries between 2016 and 2035 includes 1,074 deliveries (4% of total) for the C919 which is better than 805 (3% of total) for the Russian Irkut MC-21, but of course nowhere near the 12,087 (45% of total) for the Airbus A320neo line (604 per year average) and 11,545 (43% of total) for the Boeing B737Max line (577 per year average).

But very close to the 1,074 (5% of total) for Bombardier’s niche CSeries (just 67 per year average), so its a very good start for the Chinese in the commercial jet aircraft market, and things will only improve with time, this is after all China’s century.

This is due to the fact that the expected bilateral aviation safety agreement (BASA) was not concluded with the FAA based on a shadow certification of the never ending Comac ARJ-21 regional jet program, which ran so long and required so many safety related changes, that no FAA validation has been received or will be received.

This means the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) certification of the ARJ-21 is not internationally recognized, and given most countries require and demand FAA or EASA Type Certification to be allowed to operate under local air regulations and be even registered locally. So the ARJ-21 deliveries are now reduced to China and the very few dubious countries that do not require EASA or FAA certification.

In 1985 McDonnel Douglas signed an agreement with China to produce MD-82’s/83’s with Shanghai Aviation Industrial Corp., as kits from the USA, initially the plan was for 30 x MD-82’s and 5 x MD-83’s and the whole ideas behind this was to become the preferred choice for CAAC (then an airline and CAA) when buying single aisle aircraft.

Well many years and alterations later to the plan, and only 30 x MD-82’s were completed from kits plus 2 x MD-90-30’s before cancellation of the whole thing by 1994, even though China claimed it wanted to build 40 more MD-90-30’s it was coming apart.

As China kept reducing the order and it became clear that China was more interested in the special machine tooling for its own military programs and was sending the tooling to their military plants and reverse engineering it all, though when I see the list of ‘other’ Chinese companies involved in the MD80/90 program, Xian, Shenyang and Chengdu, all military aircraft manufacturers, it should have been obvious no ?

Anyway, the original MD-90-30 tooling is being used today to build the ARJ-21-700.

The Comac ARJ-21-700 is “modernized” DC-9-10/20 which were 31.82 meters long and seated up to 109 passengers, while the ARJ-21-700 is 33.56 meters long and seats 78 to 90 passengers, its powered by GE CF34-10A (18,500 lbf) engines and cruises at Mach 0.78 and has a range of 1,200 nm or 1,800 nm (ER version).

So EASA, is C919’s only hope for western certification now, even though work has been on going since 2011, EASA has 6 years of catching up on ALL that has been done, and it will shadow the certification work that the FAA was to do had the ARJ-21 been the shadow program as planned.

Presently the ARJ-21 has 302 orders, of which 21 are for foreign customers 2 x Lao Airlines, 9 x Merkukh Enterprises (Indonesia), 2 x Myanmar National Airlines, 3 x Republic of Congo and 5 for GECAS (USA) for leasing ?

Only 2 ARJ-21’s are in service at this time with AVIC owned Chengdu Airlines, the aircraft apparently leaks in the rain, the last two rows are not booked as the noise levels are very high and for now the aircraft fly only in “good” weather ?

As for the C919, it will seat up to 168 in all economy and 158 in 2 class seating, it is powered by CFM Leap-1C engines with 31,000 lbf, cruise will be Mach 0.785, max range is 2,200 nm or 3,000 nm for the ER version.

The wing is super critical improving efficiency by 20% and drag reducing drag by 8%, the center wing box was to be made of carbon fiber composites, but they stayed with aluminum, which the airframe is made of as well.

Everyone knows that China has no history or experience in product support and after sales service, and after the lack of a EASA Type Certificate early on, that will become the main reason why sales, no matter how low the price will be for the C919, will suffer.

The other area of major concern has to be sales & marketing, I have experience with AVIV which with Harbin Aircraft are responsible for the Y-12E and Y-12F, which according to information by GAMA, had just 6 deliveries in 2016, well no wonder, they are the most useless sales & marketing organization ever assembled. Brochures maybe, but good luck getting performance, specifications a standard spec or even a basic price, absolute joke.

At AVI, they have people who do not know the industry, do not know how to communicate and have no clue how to sell and aircraft, a disaster, and yet the Y-12F is real good improvement to the Y-12E, no similarities, very confusing using Y-12 designation for both models. COMAC needs to greatly improve its sales & marketing, even now they put out so little, look commercial aircraft are NOT “state secret” everyone knows what they have, but still that is how they present themselves, today.

You can READ more on the Y-12E/F in this Blog just click through General Aviation, a big articles was done 2 years ago, Check Out the Y-12E and Y-12F Brochures below:

Y12F Presentation-201506 (3)


Below are photos of the Y-12F/E, the new, bigger and more modern Y-12F (left) and the smaller and older Y-12E (right), both FAA Type Certified.

It takes time to build a reputation, step by step, it cannot be done overnight unless you acquire a company with that in place, and the only OEM of commercial jet airliners is Bombardier, that can speed up China’s commercial aviation aspirations very quickly.

Lets hope for Comac that the period between first flight and first delivery will not be to long, the ARJ-21 took 2,769 days between its first flight on November 28, 2008 and the first delivery to Chengdu Airlines on June 28, 2016, yes 93.3 months or 7.6 years !

As you can see from my graph below that first flight to first delivery can be very long, and the C919  “should” be good in 627 days ? that is the average of the 13 aircraft in graph below (excluding the ARJ-21).

The Chinese are still learning a lot about this industry, and the EASA certification just make take 4+ years as EASA has missed 6 years of work on the C919 and has lots of catching up to do, so realistically I think late 2021 at best, but Chinese airlines are good with a CAAC Type Certificate, so they can start flying much earlier, say mid 2020.

A little of topic, as usual, while the Chinese reversed engineered most of their aircraft up to the 1990’s, they did have one indigenous design a long range aircraft very similar in appearance to the Boeing B707 though dimensions closer to the B720, but the Y-10 was a good attempt, that went nowhere unfortunately, during the cultural revolution in China.

The program was under very political and feared Wang Hongwen, who was part of the “Gang of Four” (inc. Mao’s wife), major counter revolutionaries during cultural revolutionary days that ruthlessly lead and controlled China until Mao Zedung died in September, 1976 and then they were arrested one month later (sentenced to death, but all died in prison over many years), the program was pretty much dead from then on, but officially dead by 1983, but a good attempt considering where China was with aircraft design in 1970.

President Richard Nixon made a historic visit to China in 1972 to meet Chairman Mao, and the Chinese were very impressed with Air Force One (C-139 Stratoliner a modified long range Boeing B707),referred to as SAM26000 (special air mission) and in late 1972 The Chinese bought a few B707’s, but the Y-10 was started before then so now copy, its a early original Chinese jet airliner.

The Shanghai Y-10 was powered by 4 x PW JT3D-3B engines of 19,000 lbf, and seated 124 to a maximum of 178 and had a MTOW of 242,500 lbs. Only 3 prototypes were made and proudly displayed, from every failure something is always learned.

Till next time, keep comments coming, hope you learned something at least today, cheers.




About Aviation Doctor - Helping aviation companies to transform the present into a more profitable tomorrow

I am a Canadian and EU national with an MBA and 33+ years experience in aviation business development with 20 years overseas and work in 30+ countries. A former investment/merchant banker (mergers and acquisitions to corporate turnarounds). airline and OEM senior executive and past owner of 6 successful aviation companies in 3 countries (executive jet charter/management companies, aircraft sales, aircraft broker, airline/aerospace consulting to aircraft insurance). I have a very diverse aviation background with 75+ aviation companies (50+ airlines of all sizes, OEM's, airports, lessors, MRO to service providers) as consultant, executive management, business analyst and business development adviser. Excellent success track record in International Business Development. Most work with airlines is with new start-ups and restructuring of troubled carriers. I sold new business jets, turboprops and helicopters for Cessna, Raytheon, Gulfstream to Eurocopter as an ASR as well as undertaking sales and marketing of commercial aircraft for Boeing, de Havilland, Dornier, Saab and Beechcraft. Brokered everything from LET-410's to B747's and from piston PA31 to G550 business jets. I look beyond the headlines of the aviation news and analyze what the meaning and consequences of the new information really means. There is a story behind each headline that few go beyond. Picked the name Aviation Doctor, as much of my work has been with troubled companies or those that want and need to grow profitably. I fix problems in the business for a better tomorrow. You can reach me with comments or suggestions at: Tomas.Aviation@gmail.com I write a lot of Articles and Posts on LinkedIN: https://www.linkedin.com/in/tomas-chlumecky-3200a021/


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