Supported by China’s state-owned airlines, COMAC does not suffer from the same problem as other commercial aircraft manufacturers, which rely on lengthy discussions before concluding a sale.

Their jets have a numerous backlog almost entirely formed by orders from Chinese state-controlled companies. This week, however, COMAC secured an agreement to sell 100 units of the ARJ21 and C919 models to the airline China Express Airlines.

Unlike other companies, the Chongqing-based regional airline is privately owned and operates a fleet of 49 Western planes – 11 Airbus A320 and 38 CRJ900. The order is the largest ever received by COMAC from a private airline, but the two companies have not disclosed the division of units between the C919 and the ARJ21.

The agreement also involves cooperation to improve aircraft, maintenance and services and thus help COMAC to implement international expansion. China Express Airlines is expected to receive the first ARJ21 by the end of this year, while the C919 is still pending completion of its certification, which is delayed.

Developed on the basis of the old MD-80 jets, the ARJ21 has already had 26 units delivered from 328 orders. The C919, in turn, is a more ambitious and modern project and should compete in the market with the A320 and the 737, but it should only enter service around 2022. COMAC claims that it has 305 firm orders so far.

COMAC C919 (Ken Chen)