Clear skies ahead for China's C919

Updated 2017-12-14 09:36:11 China Daily
A C919 airplane takes off from the Shanghai Pudong International Airport for a test flight to Xi'an, Northwest China's Shaanxi province, on Nov 10.

A C919 airplane takes off from the Shanghai Pudong International Airport for a test flight to Xi'an, Northwest China's Shaanxi province, on Nov 10.

First homegrown large passenger jet is waiting to pass international safety tests.

Watching the C919 soar into the sky during its maiden flight in May simply underlined China's ambitious commercial aviation program.

The country's first domestically-built large passenger jet is a single-aisle model similar to the Boeing 737 and the Airbus 320.

With its elegant design and narrow-body airframe, the C919 is testament to the prowess of manufacturer Commercial Aircraft Corp of China, or COMAC for short.

But away from the runway razzmatazz, the real work has just begun to obtain the airworthiness approval in China and then from overseas markets.

"When we refer a nation with strong aviation power, first it needs to have large traffic volumes, then strong manufacturing abilities, and finally the aviation regulatory standards of a country should be widely recognized," said Lin Zhijie, an aviation industry analyst and columnist at Carnoc, China's leading civil aviation web portal.

Already the C919 has attracted 785 orders from 27 Chinese and international customers. But to expand its overseas sales, it will need to comply with stringent global safety regulations.

A new agreement with the United States has helped pave the way to meeting those standards.

In October, the Civil Aviation Administration of China, known as CAAC, and the US Federal Aviation Administration, or FAA, announced they would validate the regulatory standards of both countries.

The Implementation Procedures for Airworthiness, or IPA, will adopt the regulatory systems of both nations under the US-China Bilateral Aviation Safety Agreement, which was created in 2005.

This should help shorten the C919's review procedure in obtaining an airworthiness certificate by the FAA, although the aircraft still faces various other safety checks.

"Before, China did not have the ability to formulate its own regulatory standards and it used to mainly copy the regulations of the FAA," said Lin of Carnoc.

COMAC has called the agreement "a significant step" forward.

The aviation manufacturer pointed out the European Aviation Safety Agency, or EASA, is in the process of certifying the airliner under the China-European Union air safety agreement.

"The external environment for the C919 to get the airworthiness certificates from the US and Europe is getting better," said Wu Yue, an assistant to the general manager at COMAC.

The agreement with the FAA in the US has certainly set the tone.

It recognizes both countries' aviation products and will replace the accord hammered out in 1995.

"The Implementation Procedures for Airworthiness document allows each authority to leverage approvals completed by the other with respect to design, production and airworthiness, as well as continued airworthiness," the FAA said in a statement on its website.

"The agreement uses the compatibilities of the two authorities' certification systems, and fulfills the commitment that the US and China made in 2005 with the establishment of BASA (US-China Bilateral Aviation Safety Agreement)."

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