Hainan Airlines Group (HNA Group) has announced its commitment to order 100 aircraft from the Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China (COMAC). HNA Group, alongside its subsidiaries Urumqi Airlines and Suparna Airlines, announced they would be adding 100 COMAC aircraft to its fleet on the 28th of April, 2023, including a secured order for 30 C919 models, with the model of the remaining 30 orders to be confirmed by HNA Group.
The order involves 30 C919s, 40 ARJ21s, and 30 more aircraft with the models to be decided; the first C919 will be assigned to HNA’s low-cost carrier Urumqi Airlines, which currently operates mainly domestic routes within the country with its Boeing 737 fleet. The C919 will have a seating capacity of up to 168 passengers and a maximum range of 5,555km.
One of the Big Four Airlines of China – Hainan Airlines
Hainan Aviation Group (HNA) is the mother company of China’s Hainan Airlines, one of the country’s ‘Big Four’ airlines. The multi-faceted conglomerate has several airlines under its wings, with Hainan Airlines, Hong Kong Airlines, Lucky Air, and West Air being the more noticeable subsidiaries. Interestingly, the HNA Group has a 13% of Virgin Australia, allowing strategic codeshare agreements to take advantage of the China-Australian routes before the pandemic.
Despite the extensive coverage of industries the HNA Group was involved in, the company declared bankruptcy in 2021 due to the failure of its restructuring attempt. Most of its affiliates were credited to Liaoning Fangda Group Industrial Company, which took control of HNA’s aviation sector, including its flagship Hainan Airlines.
Domestic Orders Spike For The C919
Delivered to its first operator China Eastern in December 2022, the C919 was seen serving routes between Shanghai Pudong International Airport and various Chinese cities. China Eastern, as the launch customer, bought the C919 at the list price of US$ 99 million, which was double the expected price when the airline placed its initial order. The HNA Group commitment suggests their first C919 will be assigned to subsidiary Urumqi Air, but with no firm timeframe at this stage.
C919 Development Till Now
The C919 obtained its airworthiness certificate in September 2022, after 14 years since COMAC was founded. With more than 1200 orders mainly from Chinese operators, COMAC aims to produce 150 aircraft annually in 5 years.
COMAC To Break The Mould Between Airbus And Boeing
There have been controversies on whether COMAC will become the next jet manufacturer to end the duopoly between Airbus and Boeing. Notwithstanding COMAC being a state-owned aerospace company, foreign aerospace companies are highly involved in developing the systems and powerplants for the C919.
The C919 is powered by a pair of CFM LEAP engines, with the “C” variant adapted to the airframe of the C919, whilst the “A” and “B” models were used for the Airbus A320 and the Boeing 737 family, respectively. CFM International LEAP is a joint venture between American aerospace giant GE Aviation and European aerospace pioneer Safran (formerly Snecma). Besides the powerplants, various systems are also manufactured by foreign developers, such as landing gears from Honeywell, fuel systems by Parker Aerospace, and weather radar from Rockwell Collins, to name a few. The heavy reliance on foreign aerospace companies might just be the underlying concern for COMAC to maintain a steady production flow.
Do you think the increasing orders for COMAC jets will soon impact the duopoly between Airbus and Boeing? Let us know in the comments below.