China’s COMAC C919 has officially entered into commercial service, with the country’s homegrown narrowbody aircraft setting off on its first flight with launch customer China Eastern Airlines on 28 May. 

The flight took off from Shanghai Hongqiao International Airport at 10.45 am Beijing time and arrived at Beijing Capital Airport at 1.10 pm. The 164-seat plane carried 130 passengers, who were served onboard with a themed meal and received special red boarding passes.

Chinese state broadcaster CCTV said that the flight was one that “went down in history”, and reported that current order numbers for the aircraft totalled 1,061, with China Eastern Airlines’ second C919 due for delivery in mid-June.

The launch of the COMAC narrowbody as China’s first passenger jet is a significant first step for the manufacturer, with the ambition that it will break the Airbus/Boeing hold on the airframe market and compete with the A320 family and the 737 MAX.

However, the development programme had been beset with setbacks since it launched in 2008, with the original 2014 maiden flight plans also being delayed.

Safety in the Chinese aviation sector has also come under scrutiny in recent months, since the crash of a China Eastern Airlines’ Boeing 737 aircraft in March 2022, killing all 132 people onboard.

According to state news agency Xinhua, Wei Yingbiao, Vice President of the Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China, Ltd. (COMAC), developer of the C919, said: “The commercial operation of the C919 means that for the first time, China’s civil aviation market has got the country’s self-developed trunk jetliner.”

(Photo credit: Ding Ting/Xinhua/AP)