U.S. export tightening slows advance of Chinese C919 jet -sources

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FILE PHOTO: The fifth prototype of China’s home-built C919 passenger aircraft takes off for its first check flight from Shanghai Pudong Worldwide Airport in Shanghai, China October 24, 2019. Image taken October 24, 2019. REUTERS/Stringer/File Photograph

  • Suppliers steadily receiving licence approvals -sources
  • Months-long delays might have an effect on early manufacturing -sources
  • COMAC in search of kind certificates from regulator by 12 months finish

ZHUHAI, China, Sept 27 (Reuters) – China’s C919 jetliner – a no-show on the nation’s largest air present this week – has discovered it tougher to satisfy certification and manufacturing targets amid powerful U.S. export guidelines, in line with three folks with data of the programme.

The state-owned producer, Industrial Plane Corp of China (COMAC), has been unable to get well timed assist from suppliers and has run out of some spare components, these folks mentioned.

As of December 2020, the U.S. has required particular licenses to export components and know-how help to any firm with ties to the Chinese language army. That has thrown a monkey wrench into the C919 programme, which has been in improvement for 13 years – one of many longest such durations in aviation.

U.S.-linked suppliers are steadily receiving the licences, however the hiccup has slowed down Chinese language certification, and months-long delays threaten to have an effect on early manufacturing, mentioned the folks, who declined to be named due to the sensitivity of the matter.

COMAC has 815 provisional orders, however solely China Japanese Airways positioned a agency order for 5 jets.

The state-backed airline mentioned in August it expects to obtain its first C919 by the top of the 12 months, two in 2022 and two extra in 2023.

A sluggish manufacturing rampup would imply the C919 is not going to pose a near-term menace to Airbus and Boeing , which produce dozens of narrowbodies a month.

“One of many largest hurdles goes to be the provision chain, particularly now with inflation, materials availability and provider adjustments,” mentioned aerospace provide chain knowledgeable Alex Krutz at U.S-based aerospace consultancy Patriot Industrial Companions.

“The suppliers might not have the liquidity to make the post-certification adjustments or be keen as they had been a couple of years in the past to proceed supporting an preliminary lower-rate manufacturing programme like COMAC,” he added.

COMAC is years behind its preliminary certification schedule – one purpose it didn’t take the C919 to the China Airshow.

“COMAC are very preoccupied with check flights. They’re not on time and are flying as a lot as they’ll to achieve the minimal hours wanted for Chinese language certification,” an business supply advised Reuters. “Regardless of all the problems, COMAC may be very decided to get licensed, as this can be a paramount political activity.”

Sources say that the C919 is prone to obtain its kind certificates from China’s aviation regulator by the top of this 12 months, however that there might be an extended checklist of limits on flight operations. Even after the certification, COMAC should make upgrades, the sources mentioned.

COMAC and the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) didn’t reply to requests to remark.


The sources with data of the C919 programme mentioned the jet’s progress appeared to reflect the certification sample and sluggish manufacturing of its predecessor, the ARJ21 regional jet.

The ARJ21 confronted a 2.5-year hole between acquiring a “kind certificates”, which declares the design protected, and a “manufacturing certificates” permitting it to enter mass manufacturing.

That contrasts with the West, the place these certificates are sometimes granted across the similar time.

About 60 ARJ21 plane have been delivered up to now, however the manufacturing ramp-up was additionally sluggish, rising from two planes a 12 months in 2017 to 24 in 2020, in line with COMAC knowledge.

The C919 is in a section referred to as “batch manufacturing”, the place every aircraft requires a sign-off by the regulator.


The C919 is assembled in China however depends closely on Western parts, together with engines and avionics. That has made it weak to crackdowns on key know-how transfers.

The addition of two key COMAC subsidiaries to an inventory of firms with army ties in December 2020 created bureaucratic licensing necessities.

China has been doubling down on growing its personal engine for the C919; state engine maker Aero Engine Company of China (AECC) will show a mannequin of the CJ-1000 engine on the air present, however the home answer for the airliner is years away.

AECC is spending 10 billion yuan ($1.55 billion) to construct an industrial advanced within the southwestern metropolis of Chengdu to fabricate engine nacelles and thrust reversers, native media reported final month. A supply with data of the matter mentioned the advanced associated to CJ-1000 manufacturing.

The nacelle capability is anticipated to achieve 100 per 12 months, sufficient for 50 planes, the stories mentioned, although no goal date was said. AECC didn’t reply instantly to a request for remark.

($1 = 6.4589 Chinese language yuan renminbi)

Reporting by Stella Qiu and David Kirton in Zhuhai and Jamie Freed in Sydney; further reporting by Tim Hepher in Paris; Enhancing by Miyoung Kim and Gerry Doyle


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