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HomeChainaChina plans C919 test flights in Southeast Asia en route to possible...

China plans C919 test flights in Southeast Asia en route to possible sales


The developer of China’s first home-grown narrowbody passenger jet – seen as a potential competitor to the Airbus A320 and Boeing 737 – said on Tuesday it planned to conduct test flights in Southeast Asia in the next two weeks, with an eye toward sales in the region.

The Shanghai-based Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China (Comac) said on its WeChat channel that it would carry out “demonstration flights” of its C919 jets in Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia and Vietnam.

Comac would also demonstrate the smaller ARJ21 narrowbody regional jet alongside the C919 to test their viability along routes and at airports in Southeast Asia, the statement added.

The demonstrations should “lay the foundation for subsequent market development in Southeast Asia,” the statement said.

Comac’s aircraft are designed for regional flights of just a few hours – which are common in the Southeast Asian region.

But dogged by scepticism in the West about the safety of the C919, Comac has yet to disclose any orders outside mainland China.

Comac’s promotion of its aircraft overseas comes as Airbus deliveries face delays and Boeing grapples with safety issues of its 737 Max.

02:01

China’s C919: first home-grown airliner makes international debut

China’s C919: first home-grown airliner makes international debut

Airlines in Cambodia, a staunch political ally of China, are likely to give the C919 a chance, while budget airlines in Malaysia may consider their own orders, according to Southeast Asian analysts.

“I think customers in these parts, they’re used to airlines that fly Western-made aircraft, and this would be something new,” said Ibrahim Suffian, programme director with the Merdeka Centre polling group in Kuala Lumpur. “It would take time to win over customers.”

But Malaysian budget airlines, he said, might consider ordering Comac aircraft if they were cheap and safety-tested.

Vietnamese airlines and passengers, meanwhile, “don’t know about the quality [of the C919], no matter how cheap it is”, said Nguyen Thanh Trung, director of the Saigon Centre for International Studies in Ho Chi Minh City.

China wants its home-grown jet to go abroad, seeks European approval of C919

“I’m not sure the Vietnamese airlines would be interested in buying China’s aircraft,” Nguyen said.

Airlines in Cambodia would, though, be “less picky”, he said.

But none of the five Southeast Asian countries have certified the C919, making near-term orders “unlikely”, said Brendan Sobie, founder of the Singapore-based aviation consultancy Sobie Aviation.

The C919 is designed to carry between 140 and 210 passengers, while the ARJ21 is built for between 78 and 97.

Comac is dedicated to … offering a reliable new choice to civilian international airports

Comac

Comac expects aircraft demand in the Asia-Pacific to grow from 3,314 to 9,701 in the next 20 years.

“Facing this huge market demand, Comac is dedicated to … offering a reliable new choice to civilian international airports for the purpose of making a positive contribution to the Asia-Pacific region’s civil aviation development,” the statement on Tuesday added.

For Southeast Asian aircraft customers, Comac said it would set up a special representative office, an aviation materials warehouse in the southern Chinese city Guangzhou and a regional training base.



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