At the China Zhuhai Air Show this week, the Chinese C919 passenger aircraft did not participate in the exhibition. According to three sources familiar with the matter, due to strict US export controls, it is more difficult for this aircraft to achieve certification and production goals.
The above-mentioned sources said that the state-owned Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China could not get timely help from suppliers, and some spare parts were even run out.
Since December 2020, the United States has required special permits to export parts and provide technical assistance to any company associated with the Chinese military, which puts a tight spell on the C919 plan.
According to sources, relevant US suppliers are gradually obtaining licenses, but this has slowed down the certification speed in China, and the delay of several months may affect early production. Due to the sensitivity of the matter, the source requested anonymity.
COMAC received 815 temporary orders, but only China Eastern Airlines 600115.SS placed a firm order for five aircraft.
Eastern Airlines said in August that it expects the first aircraft to be delivered before the end of the year, then two will be delivered in 2022, and two more will be delivered in 2023.
“One of the biggest obstacles will be the supply chain, especially in the context of current inflation, material supply and supplier changes,” said Alex Krutz, an aerospace supply chain expert at Patriot Industrial Partners, a US aerospace consulting firm.
“Suppliers may not have the working capital to carry out post-airworthiness certification modifications, and they are not willing to continue to support a slower initial production plan like COMAC a few years ago,” he added.
COMAC is many years behind its initial certification program-this is one of the reasons why it did not bring the C919 to the China Air Show.
“COMAC is very focused on test flights. They are behind schedule and are flying as many as possible to reach the minimum number of hours required for Chinese certification,” an industry insider told Reuters. “Despite so many problems, COMAC is very determined to obtain certification because this is a major political task.”
According to sources, the C919 may obtain a type certificate issued by the Chinese aviation regulatory agency before the end of this year, but there will be a long list of restrictions on flight operations. The source said that even after obtaining the certification, COMAC must upgrade.
COMAC and the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) did not respond to requests for comment.