A few days ago, five years after its first test flight, the C919 civil aircraft made in China received a certificate from China’s Civil Aviation Administration.
Xinhua, the mouthpiece of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), published an article on September 30 praising the achievement, saying that the certificate obtained by C919 was a milestone after tests in “various types of extreme natural environments.”
However, Richard A. Bitzinger, an expert in security and defense who once served in the U.S. government, assessed that the C919 does not have many advantages.
According to Bitzinger, the C919 is already a mediocre, narrow-body aircraft that can hold about 160 passengers, almost similar to the two existing aircraft lines, Boeing 737 and Airbus A320.
The global market for narrow-body aircraft is sizable, and the C919 will likely enter the market as a low-cost challenger, relying on cheap Chinese labor to overwhelm its competitors.
C919 has problems during production. Its first test flight took place in 2014 and was officially launched in 2016. But the first successful flight was not until 2017.
Although the C919 was eventually certified by the Civil Aviation Administration of China, if Beijing wants to sell the plane overseas, it must be approved by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration and the European Union Aviation Safety Agency.
The cost of the C919 development program has skyrocketed, Bitzinger said, with China reportedly spending more than $20 billion on the aircraft.
China originally planned to sell each C919 for $50 million. But high production costs have forced China to increase the selling price to $90 to $100 million for each C919.
The new price is equivalent to Boeing B737 and Airbus A320, so the price advantage of C919 is no longer available.
C919 is advertised as a product made entirely in China. But the reality is that China had to import quite a few components for this plane from the West, such as avionics, landing gear, cabins, flight controls, and, most importantly, jet engines.
In terms of the total value of the C919 components, only about 25% are made in China, mainly the components that make up the fuselage and wings of the aircraft.
Bitzinger said that only Chinese airlines and other Chinese companies had ordered the aircraft.
Therefore, the C919 is unlikely to become a globally competitive project. Instead, it will likely follow in the footsteps of other demonstration aircraft products from Russia, Indonesia, or Turkey.