COMAC’s Breakthrough with Tibet Airlines

In a landmark announcement at the Singapore Airshow 2024, the Chinese commercial aircraft manufacturer COMAC revealed it has obtained significant orders from Tibet Airlines. This includes a firm order for 40 high-altitude variant C919 passenger aircraft and ten ARJ21 regional jets. This makes Tibet Airlines the launch customer for the C919, highlighting COMAC’s growing influence in the commercial aviation market. The high-altitude variant of the C919 is specially designed for operations in the challenging mountainous terrain of Tibet, featuring a shortened fuselage and strengthened landing gear among other modifications to ensure short-field performance. The C919 is designed to seat between 140 and 160 passengers, positioning it as a direct competitor to the Airbus A320 and Boeing 737 families.

Strategic Partnership and Future Plans

The order from Tibet Airlines is a result of a strategic partnership formed in December 2023 between the airline and COMAC for the joint development of the high-altitude C919 variant. Tibet Airlines, which primarily operates domestic routes within Tibet and to a few international destinations like Kathmandu, is exploring all potential routes that could be suitable for the new aircraft variant. Although the timeline for the entry into service of the high-altitude C919 remains undisclosed, Tibet Airlines expressed confidence in their extensive experience operating in high-altitude environments.

COMAC’s Expanding Customer Base

In addition to the Tibet Airlines order, COMAC also secured an order from the Henan Civil Aviation Development and Investment Group for six ARJ21 twinjets, tailored for diverse missions including firefighting, emergency management, and medical services. This showcases the versatility of COMAC’s aircraft offerings and their applicability to a wide range of operational needs. As of September 2023, COMAC has reported over 1,000 orders for the C919, predominantly from China-based airlines and leasing companies. The interest from international markets is growing, as illustrated by GallopAir’s intention to order 30 aircraft, marking the first potential overseas purchase of the C919.

Global Presence at the Singapore Airshow

The Singapore Airshow 2024 has been a significant platform for COMAC not only to showcase its existing aircraft but also to mark its first international foray with the C919 prototype. The event underscores COMAC’s growing stature on the global stage, with the C919 entering commercial service with China Eastern in May 2023 and receiving orders from various airlines within and potentially outside China. The ARJ21, which entered commercial service in 2016, has seen a steady increase in deliveries, reaching 127 planes to customers to date. COMAC’s presence at the airshow, alongside other major deals such as Royal Brunei and Boeing’s agreement for 787 Dreamliners, highlights the dynamic nature of the aviation industry and the emerging role of new market entrants.

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