C919 Cleared for Take­off

China Pictorial (English) - - Contents - Edited by Yin Xing

China’s first do­mes­ti­cally pro­duced large pas­sen­ger plane, the C919, suc­cess­fully com­pleted its maiden flight in May 2017. It took six years for the plane to be cer­ti­fied since its de­but in 2008.

Strong Com­peti­tor

The flight makes China the fourth jumbo jet pro­ducer af­ter the United States, Europe and Rus­sia. It also marks a mile­stone for the Com­mer­cial Aircraft Corp of China (COMAC), the Shang­haibased man­u­fac­turer of the C919.

The twin-en­gine sin­gle-aisle C919 seats 158 or 174 and will be used for medium-haul flights in the com­mer­cial mar­ket. Com­mer­cial­iza­tion of the C919 will take two to three years, and de­mand for the C919 in the do­mes­tic mar­ket is ex­pected to reach at least 2,000.

The COMAC has al­ready re­ceived 570 or­ders for the C919 from 23 clients in­clud­ing large do­mes­tic car­ri­ers such as Air China, China South­ern Air­lines, China East­ern Air­lines, Hainan Air­lines and Sichuan Air­lines.

Shak­ing the dom­i­nance of gi­ants Boe­ing and Air­bus in the near fu­ture is un­re­al­is­tic, but the Chi­nese jet­liner could be­come an at­trac­tive op­tion for global car­ri­ers in decades to come. “I think by 2030 or 2035, the COMAC may very well build planes strong enough to com­pete with Air­bus and Boe­ing,” said Michel Mer­luzeau, di­rec­tor of Aero­space & De­fence Mar­ket Anal­y­sis for Air in­sight re­search in Seat­tle.

Chief De­signer

With the suc­cess­ful maiden flight of the C919, its chief de­signer, Wu Guanghui, came un­der the spot­light. “Our coun­try needs us. I just did what I should do,” he said.

In 2005, Wu shifted the fo­cus of his work from mil­i­tary planes to pas­sen­ger jet ARJ21, China’s first do­mes­tic com­mer­cial re­gional aircraft. In 2012, ARJ21 suc­cess­fully made its maiden flight, which ac­cu­mu­lated a lot of ex­pe­ri­ences for the de­sign of the C919.

In May 2008, Wu was ap­pointed vice pres­i­dent of the COMAC and chief de­signer of the C919. Af­ter com­mu­ni­cat­ing with his coun­ter­parts from France, Ger­many and the United States, Wu felt great pres­sure. Fac­ing the do­mes­tic weak base and in­ter­na­tional block and mo­nop­oly of tech­nol­ogy, Wu and his team had to feel their way for­ward.

“We had to de­sign aero­dy­namic force, from wings, body to the whole plane, from cal­cu­lat­ing to dis­tri­bu­tion tests,” re­called Wu. “We had to pro­duce a more ad­vanced type, oth­er­wise we would not have the ad­van­tage and com­pet­i­tive­ness in the mar­ket. We didn’t have any experience alike. We had to de­cide how to

or­ga­nize and push the whole project for­ward.”

Wu and his team, af­ter a the­o­ret­i­cal ar­gu­ment, be­gan to col­lect pro­fes­sion­als na­tion­wide. Re­searchers from avi­a­tion col­leges set up a project team of large-scale pas­sen­ger jet, brain­storm­ing a mas­ter plan for the de­sign of the plane. And they com­pared high-end aircraft de­sign plans in to­day’s world to in­cor­po­rate their mer­its. The team high­lighted the new plane’s se­cu­rity, econ­omy and amenity as well as its en­vi­ron­men­tally friendly qual­ity to meet the in­ter­na­tional stan­dards and even out­per­form other planes of its kind.

In or­der to com­plete their goal, Wu and his team set up a work­ing model: 11 hours a day and seven days a week. And at key phases, they worked in shifts for 24 hours a day. For Wu him­self, he al­ways stayed at work with­out any week­ends and hol­i­days. “We can’t al­low any er­rors at any point,” Wu al­ways re­minded him­self. “We have to move stead­fastly.”

Wu gave the credit to his team. “In the de­sign, man­u­fac­tur­ing and trial flight, young peo­ple have played a key role,” he said. “The av­er­age age of our re­search team is young, and 75 per­cent of its mem­bers are un­der 35 years old, so I have the rea­son to be­lieve China’s avi­a­tion cause has a brighter fu­ture.”

A fly­ing C919 in the lens of a pho­tog­ra­pher in an ac­com­pa­ny­ing plane. by Wan Quan

A C919 rolls off the fi­nal assem­bly line in Fe­bru­ary 2017. by Wan Quan

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