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China's first domestic single-aisle jet, the C919, scores 300 orders

Thousands behind Airbus and Boeing, but the backlogs of western airliners might sweeten the deal

Commercial Aircraft Corp of China (Comac), the maker of China's domestically made single-aisle passenger jet – the C919 – has secured orders for 300 of the recently certified aircraft.

State-owed Comac named seven leasing firms as the takers of the airplanes, all Chinese.

The lucky seven include: China National Bank Financial Leasing, ICBC Financial Leasing, CCB Financial Leasing, Bank of Communications Financial Leasing, China Merchants Bank Financial Leasing, SPDB Financial Leasing, and Suyin Financial Leasing Seven.

The Civil Aviation Administration of China issued the c919 an airworthiness certification in mid-September of this year. The airliner had passed flight tests in late July, a little over five years after its first flight. In total, the aircraft has been in development for 14 years.

Single aisle rivals

The narrow-bodied C919 is similar in size, and therefore thought to be a competitor, to Boeing's 737 and Airbus' A320. In fact, the three aircraft could likely share loading devices based on their similarities, and therefore an airline need not invest in dual or triple equipment to utilize the different brands.

But at present the C919 doesn't seem to be any competition to the two mainstays - at least not outside China, meaning it might need some time for demand to build, or for Boeing and Airbus customers to get sick of their backlogs.

Post-pandemic, the single-aisle market remains one of the biggest growth areas in aviation.

Boeing recently declared October's backlog was 4,277 Boeing 737s. Airbus' combined A220 and A320 backlog was reported at 6,772.

Airbus lists several Chinese companies, including Air China, Beijing Capital Airlines, Air Guilin, China Southern, Chengdu Airlines, China Eastern and more among its narrow-bodied buyers.

While China Eastern is beefing up its Airbus fleet with over 1,000 single-aisle orders, it is also dutifully engaged with Comac. The airline, which is China's second-largest carrier by passenger numbers after China Southern Airlines, is scheduled to receive the first C919 passenger jets this year.

Doing business across borders could prove tricky given the US's penchant for sanctions targeting China. The C919 not only includes many imported parts, but also has shareholders, including the Aviation Industry Corporation of China, on the US naughty list for its links to Chinese military. ®

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