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The maker of China's first passenger jet sets its sights on Southeast Asia

  • The state-owned Commercial Aircraft Corp of China — or Comac for short — has developed two passenger jets: the narrow-body C919 and regional jetliner ARJ21.
  • But the majority of customers remain Chinese leasing companies and Chinese airlines.
  • The company now wants to focus on Southeast Asian buyers.

The manufacturer of China's first homegrown passenger jet is targeting Southeast Asian customers in an attempt to expand its customer base outside of the world's second-largest economy.

A model of Comac's C919 aircraft at the Singapore Airshow on Feb. 6, 2018.
SeongJoon Cho / Bloomberg / Getty Images
A model of Comac's C919 aircraft at the Singapore Airshow on Feb. 6, 2018.

The Commercial Aircraft Corp of China — or Comac for short — hopes to one day rival Boeing and Airbus with its passenger jets, which include the narrow-body C919 plane and regional jetliner ARJ21. The state-owned firm has secured more than 700 orders for the 168-seat C919, which flew for the first time in May. The ARJ21, operating for more than a year, has seen more than 400 orders.

But the majority of customers remain Chinese leasing companies and Chinese airlines.

Comac is now concentrating its attention on potential Southeast Asian buyers, Lu Zheng, deputy general manager of sales and marketing, said at the Singapore Air Show on Tuesday.

However, no deals are expected during the week-long aviation event, Lu noted. Africa, Middle Asia and West Asia will be the company's next regions of focus, followed by Europe and Japan, he continued: "We are going step by step."

The C919's first delivery — to China Eastern Airlines— is scheduled for 2021, Lu said, adding that China's certification process takes three to four years.

The C919 is a symbol of Beijing's aerospace ambitions but international concerns about the craft's reliability are rampant. That's where a recent bilateral aviation agreement between Washington and Beijing could help. In October last year, the world's two largest economies signed a pact that recognized each other's safety standards and regulatory systems for aviation products.

Comac has also developed a wide-body commercial jet known as the C929 with Russia.