The Rise of COMAC C919


US Media has been filled with stories regarding the endless problems at Boeing. The main focus has been on 737MAX with a defective known design flaw and the poorly designed MCAS anti-crash software. First of all, one must immediately consider why you need to be flying on an aircraft that needs anti-crash software in the first place? TCAS (Traffic Collison Avoidance System) makes sense which is for avoiding other aircraft in midair. As a passenger sitting in First Class you may hear the audio alarm going off at times saying “Pull Up, Pull Up” sometimes on landing. I think we all get that one. Yet, needing software to prevent an incorrectly, defectively designed and highly flawed aircraft from crashing simply due to its poor design is a whole other story.

The combination of the defective aircraft design and poor software allowed by Boeing ended with the death of over 300 passengers. These crashes came about after an already turbulent year at Boeing with multiple defective Trent 1000 engine blades on the Boeing 787 Dreamliner being recalled. Now the media is seeing reports that there are over 148 defects recently discovered on the 737 MAX and newly identified problems causing recalls for the 787 with defective tires, wheels, and braking systems. This past week has also included reports that there are a newly discovered compressor anomaly issues with the engines for the new 797. Boeing has been consumed with greed and their long-standing policy of Profits over Safety has finally come back to bite them. The Boeing Corporation has flown into major headwinds and has begun to nosedive in public opinion due to this endless storm of scandal from these ongoing investigations. Consumer confidence in their brand and products has hit an all-time low.

Airbus has been dealing with their own fair share of bad press but on a smaller and perhaps less well-known scale. The Airbus bleed air designed aircraft have become notorious for having the most Cabin Air Quality Fume Event issues in the airline industry today. Boeing has their share as well but nowhere near the amount as Airbus. The brand new NEOs from Airbus have been dealing with many metal engine oil chip contamination errors causing immediate Fume Events on aircraft, not even a week old.  These events have been suppressed by the aviation community, the mainstream media and airline management.

Many stories have been disguised in the media and often downplayed as simple uneventful maintenance issues where a plane was gate returned due to some quote, “unknown, mysterious odor” is typically how the industry continues to play these events off time and time again. As they simply brush the deceased, disabled crew members under the carpet and ignore any sick passengers who request medical attention. Crew and passengers continue to become chronically ill, disabled and even die from the Organophosphate Poisoning or Aeroroxic Syndrome which is caused by this Bleed Air aircraft design flaw.  An already bad situation is only escalated by the current day ULCC low-cost cutting maintenance protocols for engine wet seal replacements.

This now brings us to the new entry that is waiting in the wings looking for a vulnerable opportunity to infiltrate the market while the two big players Boeing and Airbus have their guards down. Americans do not have much consumer confidence in China or low cost and low quality cheap Chinese made products. As an American when I think Made in China this immediately envisions, toxic lead-based paint toys, toxic drywall with strontium sulfide, adulterated toxic plastic Chinese rice and toxic chemical ridden clothing textile fibers made with formaldehyde and PFC Perfluorocarbons.

Boeing and Airbus continue to toll in their ongoing cost-cutting safety violations which have undermined their long-standing quality brands and reputations. This may now be leaving a window of opportunity open for low cost, low grade and a questionable player like China’s aircraft manufacturer COMAC to take hold into the global aviation marketplace. They may be able to do this by playing on the new vulnerabilities created in the international overseas markets where the Boeing 737 MAX crashes took place. China, Asia, India, and Africa are the largest growing market share for new aircraft purchases. These markets have lost all faith in Boeing and Airbus is looking marginal as well. This is being felt the hardest in Indonesia and Ethiopia where the majority of lives were lost.

It could lead to large new orders for the COMAC C919 in these emerging markets. However, as an American, if I do not trust China to produce food, clothing, toys or home building materials then would I really trust them to produce a safe pressurized metal tube that will be flying at 30,000 feet over large areas of the open ocean? I would have to say that would be a huge resounding NO for me on that one. However, China, Asia, India, and Africa may have a very different opinion after the two 737 MAX crashes in their areas of the world.

COMAC C919: “To begin with, they targeted the most profitable market, for the basic airline workhorse, single-aisle jets carrying between 160 and 200 passengers on domestic routes. China alone will need around 9,000 new airplanes in the next 20 years and most of them will be single-aisle. Most jets that sit at an airport gate look the same but under their skin, it’s a different story. Each planemaker’s proprietorial knowledge lies deep in thousands of details, much of it in technology and intellectual property controlled by western companies. Comac had to set up partnerships with many of those companies, including one of the largest, UTC Aerospace Systems, part of America’s United Technologies, Rockwell Collins, Honeywell, and the French technology colossus, Thales. The engines also come from the Franco-American alliance of Safran and General Electric.

Designed like a Jigsaw Puzzle or Patchwork Quilt:

Major sections of the airplane are built in plants dispersed throughout Europe and then shipped to final assembly lines in France and Germany. The same major sections—fuselage, wings, engines, landing gear—are flown to China to be mated on the final production line there. The internal cabin fittings are also carried out as custom-ordered by an airline. China will be able to exploit this opportunity to establish the C919 as an Asian-built airplane that will be supported by the world’s largest domestic airline market. The conservatism of its design will be seen as a virtue if it proves to be competitive and reliable. Chinese designers have already moved on. They are developing a larger widebody jet to compete with the Boeing 787 and Airbus A350 to be ready by 2025, this time partnering with the Russians. There will no doubt be setbacks on the way, but the Boeing-Airbus duopoly will for sure eventually lose its dominance of the skies.”        (The Daily Beast)


Link: Daily Beast

Link: COMAC C919 Launch Video

Link: COMAC FAA Certification

Link: Made in China: Aerotime News Hub

Link: Ethiopian Airlines: COMAC Purchase


Aviation Travel Writer: The Flight Times Blog                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 




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