COMAC’s Breakthrough at Singapore Airshow: A New Contender in the Aviation Industry

Chinese state-owned planemaker COMAC has surpassed industry leaders Airbus and Boeing at the Singapore Airshow, showcasing its self-developed C919 and ARJ21 jets as it pursues international certifications and foreign orders. The C919, a rival to the Boeing 737 MAX and Airbus A320neo family single-aisle jets, flew for the first time outside Chinese territory. COMAC took center stage with a 50-plane order from China's Tibet Airlines on Tuesday.


Aviation industry leaders at Asia's biggest aviation gathering believed that COMAC had a long road ahead to become a serious competitor and would largely operate in China's domestic market in the near term. However, potential buyers and lessors wanted to see U.S. and European regulatory approval. China's aviation authority has said it will promote the plane internationally this year and pursue European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) certification.

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GallopAir, a new Brunei-based airline backed by Chinese investors, has ordered 30 COMAC planes, including the first overseas C919 purchases. However, a certification process for the C919 in Brunei is at least two to three years away, and COMAC needs to operate more hours to have the confidence to deliver.

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Indonesian low-cost carrier TransNusa already operates two ARJ21 aircraft, a regional jet predecessor to the C919. Christian Scherer, CEO of Airbus commercial aircraft, said the European planemaker welcomed the competition but noted the C919 looked like Boeing and Airbus' existing offerings and would not bring any particular differentiation to the market. Boeing welcomed the competition from COMAC, which was "good for the industry."

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