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November 20, 2020

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China’s passenger jet leads world

The materials used to build the C919, China’s first domestically developed narrow-body jetliner, have better quality than those of the world’s mainstream airliners, an official from the jet’s developer said yesterday.

The wide application of third-generation aluminum-lithium alloy, a bespoke material developed for the C919, has helped reduce the weight of the single-aisle aircraft by 8 percent, said Li Hongping, a researcher with the Shanghai Aircraft Design & Research Institute under the Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China, the plane’s developer.

“The material is the highlight of the C919, which achieves high weight reduction efficiency,” Li told the 6th Aeronautical Materials and Manufacturing Technology Shanghai International Forum.

“While the cost is almost the same as normal metal materials.”

A large number of other alloys with high strength and toughness have been used for the airliner.

Many were invented within the past five years, Li said.

The C919, with 168 seats and a range of 5,555 kilometers, competes for orders with Airbus and Boeing in the same market segment.

COMAC has won 850 orders from 30 foreign and domestic airlines for the C919. Six prototypes have been produced in Pudong and are under test flying.

Li said the C919 is expected to gain its airworthiness certificate in 2021 and begin commercial operations soon after.

China’s aircraft manufacturing industry has entered the fast lane, along with rising demand for the development of advanced aeronautical materials. Over 100 MA700 regional turboprop aircraft have been delivered, while 39 ARJ21 regional jets are operating commercially with major domestic carriers.

By 2023, China’s aviation materials market is expected to reach 28.3 billion yuan (US$4.3 billion).

The forum in Shanghai on Wednesday and yesterday invited over 200 officials and experts from government agencies, aviation materials manufacturers, universities and aircraft parts suppliers.

Yi Junlan, an official with the manufacturing technology institute under COMAC, said 3D printing has become a key technology in civil aviation material development.

China’s 3D printing technology for civil aviation has been developing rapidly since 2016.

Multiple materials made with the technique have acquired airworthiness certificates, Yi said.

“Low cost, intelligence and integration will become the future trends in aviation materials,” Yi told the forum.


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