February 6, 2018 / 2:20 AM / 8 months ago

China's COMAC says first delivery of C919 jet planned for 2021

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - The Commercial Aircraft Corp of China Ltd(COMAC) on Tuesday said it was aiming to make the first delivery of its C919 single-aisle jet in 2021, despite delays in flight testing.

FILE PHOTO: Employees work on a China's home-grown C919 passenger jet at Manufacturing and Final Assembly Center of state-owned Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China (COMAC) during a media tour in Shanghai, China May 4, 2017. Picture taken May 4, 2017. REUTERS/Aly Song/File Photo

Lu Zheng, COMAC’s deputy general manager of sales and marketing, told reporters on the sidelines of the Singapore Airshow that the company expected Chinese certification to take three to four years. COMAC also has been speaking to U.S. authorities.

“It should not have any impact” on the delivery time to the jet’s launch customer, China Eastern Airlines, he said. “We’re striving for 2021.”

The C919, which hopes to compete with Boeing Co’s 737 and the Airbus SE A320, is a symbol of China’s civil aerospace ambitions and President Xi Jinping’s push to upgrade manufacturing capabilities.

There was an almost five month-gap between the C919’s first and second flight, far longer than that of other new aircraft, which had raised concerns that COMAC’s plans to deliver the aircraft were running behind schedule. The plane has since undergone multiple tests, including a long-distance flight.

FILE PHOTO: A model of a jet is pictured at the launching ceremony of China-Russia Commercial Aircraft International Corporation Limited (CRAIC), a joint venture between Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China (COMAC) and Russia's United Aircraft Corp (UAC), in Shanghai, China May 22, 2017. REUTERS/Brenda Goh

Lu also said U.S. and European certification to come after it wins approval from Chinese regulators. Europe’s aviation safety regulator has started the certification process, but its U.S. counterpart has not, he said.

He described recent partnerships between Airbus and Bombardier, as well as Boeing and Embraer as “normal,” but said that they would affect the markets its C919 and ARJ21 planes want to compete in.

“It will have an impact but they’ve also been impacted by us,” he said. “We will work hard to become, from a follower, to be a competitor, and in future, if we have the opportunity, to become a leader. But it’s a long road.”

The company does not plan to announce any orders at the Singapore Airshow, he added. But it planned to speak to potential customers from Southeast Asia.

The company, which is also co-developing a new wide-body jetliner with Russia, said in a statement that it had asked engine makers for proposals to supply the C929 jet’s propulsion system on Dec. 21.

Russian officials have said the two countries expect to develop their own engine for the project.

Reporting by Brenda Goh; Editing by Gerry Doyle

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