The no. 6 C919 performed its maiden takeoff in late December from Pudong International Airport, located adjacent to COMAC’s Shanghai’s final assembly line facility.
This reflects the further acceleration of C919 testing, as the initial flights of two other prototypes (aircraft no. 4 and no. 5) also were performed during 2019. The first three C919s took to the skies in 2017 and 2018.
With the test program in full swing, C919s are now flying from four locations in China: Pudong in the Shanghai region; the flight test center of Yanliang, situated in Shaanxi province; along with Dongying in Shandong province and Nanchang in Jiangxi Province.
The C919 has one of the first truly integrated propulsion systems, resulting from the close cooperation of Nexcelle as the nacelle supplier and CFM International, manufacturer of the LEAP-1C powerplants.
Nexcelle is supporting the accelerated flight test pace with the resources of its two parent companies: Safran Nacelles in France and U.S.-based Middle River Aerostructure Systems (MRAS). The Nexcelle joint venture has an established a presence in China, with its primary team located at COMAC’s Shanghai Aircraft Design and Research Institute (SADRI) in the Xuhui District of Shanghai. For the build-up of nacelles and engines into complete integrated propulsion systems, Nexcelle and CFM International have an integration area located adjacent to the C919 final assembly line at COMAC’s Shanghai Aircraft Manufacturing Co. location near Pudong International Airport.
Additionally, one of Nexcelle’s team members is positioned at Safran Nacelles’ Chinese industrial affiliate – Xi’an SAVI Nacelles – in the city of Xi’an, situated approximately 60 kilometers from the flight test center at Yanliang.
Based on Nexcelle’s work-sharing arrangement with its parent companies, Safran Nacelles has the C919 nacelle system’s lead industrial role, supplying the O-Duct thrust reverser which was developed through Safran Nacelles’ innovation program, while also bringing its electrical thrust reverser actuation system (ETRAS) expertise – which is used for the O-Duct’s deployment instead of hydraulic systems. Middle River Aerostructure Systems is responsible for supplying the nacelle’s inlet, fan cowls, inner fixed structure and engine mounts.
The innovative O-Duct thrust reverser
A key innovation in Nexcelle’s nacelle design is the thrust reverser’s O-Duct, which reduces weight, increases thrust reverser efficiency and facilitates engine maintenance. The O-Duct’s “clean” configuration (when compared to traditional D-duct thrust reversers) eliminates drag links in the engine’s secondary flow-path, enhancing the airflow path and improving fuel consumption – while also increasing thrust reverser efficiency. Improved engine maintenance is another advantage of the O-Duct design, resulting from easier access to the LEAP-1C’s engine core and the thrust reverser components.
COMAC has sized the C919 to accommodate 158 to 168 passengers, with a flight range of 4,075 to 5,555 km. To date, the company has announced orders for more than 800 C919s, received from 28 customers.