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Nov 14, 2012

Dead US airline owners look to buy unborn China jet

In a case of the un-dead meeting the unborn, the US owners of the defunct Eastern Air Lines brand have signed a rather


Another two year old c919 graphic found on Weibo

In a case of the un-dead meeting the unborn, the US owners of the defunct Eastern Air Lines brand have signed a rather vaguely reported MOU with the makers of the yet to fly COMAC c919 single aisle mid range passenger jet.

Eastern Air Lines was shut down and bankrupted in the US in 1991.

The c919, which has been variously described, sometimes by the same official sources, as a high composite, high metal alloy, short, medium or intercontinental range jet, but which does use American engines and has claimed cockpit commonality with the also yet to fly Bombardier CSeries jets, has so far defied concise specifications or timelines.

The stories have come from the Xhuhai Air Show in China, where it may have been a slow news day.

However the c919 shouldn’t be mocked. China needs more A320 or 737 sized jets in the next 20 years than Airbus or Boeing seem capable of building, even including the efforts of an Airbus final assembly line that has been completing kits sent across from Airbus in Europe since September 2008.

According to background briefings several years ago, when the c919 plans saw daylight, the jet wouldn’t undergo US and European certification flight testing, but operate within, and be thus optimised for  China domestic flights. Raising memories of the Dassault Mercure of the late 20th century, which was satirised in France as the only jet that couldn’t leave the country, which wasn’t true, as Lille to Southampton was indeed possible.

Since then the c919 has turned down if not completely silenced the satirical comments from within western aerospace companies, and especially so from those trying to sell COMAC their ‘secrets’ and equipment.

The main COMAC comedy act had become Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary proposing to buy the jet instead of ordering at least 200 new technology engine variants of the 737 or A320 from Boeing or Airbus respectively.

Neither of whom seemed very impressed by O’Leary wanting the jets for next to nothing, and totally redesigned so that they could pack in standing room only passengers, which had fairly serious consequences for totally altering the emergency exits, emergency oxygen systems and such minor things as takeoff and landing performance with 360 passengers instead of a typical low cost format of 180 of them stuffed so close together that unless married or in a consenting adult relationship criminal charges might have arisen.

However at this early stage there is no sign of O’Leary or any Ryanair executives in Zhuhai, but we remain attuned to this rescuing an otherwise bleak news outlook.


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