C919 completes final ground test, closer to first flight

China’s homegrown commercial jet COMAC C919 has completed a series of high-speed taxi tests which bring the much-anticipated commercial jet closer to its maiden flight. The first test was taken on April 16, 2017, and the fourth test was performed on April 23, 2017, at Shanghai Pudong International Airport (PVG). According to CNN Money, the April 23 test is the final ground trial for C919, and COMAC is expecting to fly the aircraft before the end of May 2017.

During the last test performed at Pudong Airport, the pilots had to demonstrate that the jet can safely stop on the runway. China Daily added that during the test, the C919 slightly lifted its front landing gear to simulate takeoff.

Previously, the CFM LEAP-1C powered aircraft reportedly reached a top speed of around 248 kilometers per hour in the first high-speed taxi test. Local media reported that during the first test, the jet completed most of the ground-based pre-flight evaluations, including low-speed and medium-speed taxiing tests, to examine the whole aircraft and its key components and connecting parts.

Long delays might be over

In February 2017, the Commercial Aircraft Corp. of China (COMAC) stated that within the first half of the year C919 passenger jet is expected to make its maiden flight. Philippe Petitcolin, CEO of Safran, told media that C919 might take its first flight in the end of April 2017.

Production issues withheld the plane’s maiden flight at least twice since 2014. The first appearance of the jet took place in November 2015 at a roll-out ceremony in Shanghai.

The narrow-body aircraft, accommodating 156-168 passengers, aims to compete with Boeing 737 and Airbus A320. While China seeks to be in the first position as a global aircraft supplier, the C1919 jet is a key symbol of such ambitions.

The aircraft is due to launch its first flight with China Eastern Airlines. COMAC previously stated that it had received 570 orders for the C919 aircraft from 23 customers. The aircraft is scheduled for the first delivery in 2019.

With the latest test result, COMAC’s strive for C919’s first flight might meet expectation soon. According to COMAC, the potential market for the C919 is estimated at around 650 billion yuan ($96 billion). However, an analysis of Ishka Global stated that for the success of the program COMAC has to focus on such after-market infrastructures as MRO services and spare parts availability.