COMAC’s First Production C919 Takes Flight; Price Higher Than Estimate

MSN007 departing Shanghai for its first flight.
Credit: State media Xinhua

SINGAPORE—COMAC’s initial production C919 took flight for the first time on May 14 as the narrowbody nears entry to commercial service after years of delay. 

The aircraft—MSN007—took off from Shanghai Pudong at 6:52 a.m. local time. After a 3-hr. 2-min. flight, the aircraft returned to the airport. 

According to COMAC, the “pilot and engineers accomplished all the pre-set tasks, and the aircraft was in good condition.” 

Bearing the registration B-001J, the first C919 is destined for China Eastern Airlines. The Shanghai-based carrier is the type’s launch customer after placing firm orders for five C919s in March 2021. China Eastern expected to receive the first aircraft by the end of 2021 but delays in certification have forced the C919’s entry into service back to late 2022. 

Meanwhile, China Eastern issued a stock exchange notice on May 10 expressing plans to raise 15 billion yuan ($2.2 billion) for the acquisition of 38 aircraft consisting of four C919s, 24 COMAC ARJ-21s, six Airbus A350-900s and four Boeing 787-9s. 

Notably, the filing revealed the prices of the C919 and ARJ-21 for the first time. The C919 cost $99 million each while the ARJ-21 are $38 million per aircraft. The $99 million price tag from state-owned COMAC is nearly twice the $50 million estimate industry analysts had expected and puts the aircraft close to its Western peers. The list price for a Boeing 737-8 is $121.6 million while the list price for an Airbus A320neo was $110.6 million in January 2018. 

The relatively high price of the C919 makes the aircraft less competitive against its Western counterparts, although it is widely accepted that Chinese airlines could get concessions from local airports and airline authorities when the type is deployed domestically.

Powered by a pair of CFM Leap 1C engines, the C919 first flew in 2017.

Chen Chuanren

Chen Chuanren is the Southeast Asia and China Editor for the Aviation Week Network’s (AWN) Air Transport World (ATW) and the Asia-Pacific Defense Correspondent for AWN, joining the team in 2017.


That the US is still providing Leap engines to China demonstrates extraordinary short-sightedness. Not only does it (literally) give wings to a competing design (which would be even less of a threat if it had no western components in it), it also paves the long term way to China producing its own engines.

Just ask the Japanese how many high-speed trains they sold to China as they hoped for a 300 sets market... 18!!!!. Everything else is made in China and the Chinese HST network is gigantic.

Of the 5 A380s bought by China Southern, none crashed but only 4 have been seen flying. The fifth one has probably been stripped to the bones, with almost every single component nw having (or due to have) a little Chinese brother.

When Lenin said, in 1920, that "The capitalists are so dumb that they will sell us the rope to hang them, he was right.
Although Lenin did say that, look where that attitude got Russia today!
The biggest hurdle for the Chinese will be the regulatory one. Look how much trouble Boeing, the most experienced aircraft manufacturer in the world is having getting FAA approvals. Mitsubishi had to put their MRJ on hold. The Chinese have a long road ahead if they want to fly outside of China.