Commercial Aircraft Corp. of China will delay the maiden test flight of the country’s first large passenger plane to 2015 from an earlier plan for next year, four company officials familiar with the plan said.
Comac, as the company is also known, delayed the flight of C919 because of certain procedures that aren’t linked to technical matters, the people said, declining to be identified as the information isn’t public. The Shanghai-based planemaker may notify suppliers about the decision as early as this month.
China is building the 168-seat plane as it tries to break Airbus SAS and Boeing Co. (BA:US)’s stranglehold in the global market for aircraft of this size. Last year, Comac asked its project designers to work 12-hour days, and also Saturdays, to meet the deadline for the maiden flight of the jet.
Comac said last year it had 380 commitments for the C919, with most clients being Chinese airlines and lessors. Honeywell International Inc. (HON:US) and CFM International, a venture between General Electric Co. (GE:US) and Safran SA (SAF), are among its suppliers.
GE’s aircraft leasing arm has signed on to take 20 of the C919 planes. Other customers include China’s big three airlines -- Air China Ltd. (753), China Southern Airlines Co. and China Eastern Airlines Corp. -- and the leasing units of state-controlled lenders such as Bank of China Ltd., Industrial & Commercial Bank of China Ltd. (601398) and Bank of Communications Co.
The China News Service reported the C919’s flight delay late yesterday.
Bombardier Inc. (BBD/B) last year said it plans to help Comac get overseas approval for the C919 plane as the Canadian aircraft maker has experience from winning approvals for regional and business aircraft worldwide over 20 years.
The two companies said in March 2012 that the C919 and Bombardier CSeries plane would share a common cockpit, paring research costs and boosting the appeal of the planes as pilots will be able to fly both of them with little extra training. They also comitted to joint-purchasing of aluminum alloys.
Economic growth in China has boosted travel demand in the world’s most-populous nation, spurring Air China and other carriers to boost aircraft purchases. The country is expected to have 4,200 commercial aircraft in 2020, compared with a fleet size of 2,001 with 46 airlines, the Civil Aviation Administration of China said in May.
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