As the world's first launch customer of the China-made trunk liner C919, China Eastern Airlines officially signed a purchase contract of C919 aircraft with Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China, Ltd. (COMAC) in Shanghai on March 1st, 2021. Five C919 aircraft would be introduced in the first batch, and China Eastern Airlines would become the world's first airline to operate C919 aircraft. This is an important step for China Eastern Airlines in the introduction and commercial operation of the China-made trunk liner as a pioneer after the successful establishment of One Two Three Airlines (OTT Airlines) to operate China-made ARJ21 aircraft and in the first year to implement the 14th Five-Year Plan.
Mr. Wu Qing, Member of the Standing Committee of CPC Shanghai Municipal Committee and Vice Mayor of Shanghai, Mr. Liu Shaoyong, Chairman and Secretary of the Party Leadership Group of China Eastern Airlines, and Mr. He Dongfeng, Secretary of the Party Committee and Chairman of COMAC, made speeches. Mr. Li Yangmin, Deputy Secretary of the Party Leadership Group and President of China Eastern Airlines, and Mr. Zhao Yuerang, Deputy Secretary of the Party Committee and President of COMAC, placed their signatures on the contract. Mr. Chen Mingbo, Deputy Secretary-General of Shanghai Municipal Government, Mr. Liu Ping, Chief Engineer of Shanghai Municipal Commission of Economy and Informatization, Mr. Lv Xinming, Deputy Director of CAAC East China Regional Administration, Mr. Yu Bo, Director of East China Regional Air Traffic Management Bureau of CAAC, Mr. Gu Xin, Director of Shanghai Aircraft Airworthiness Certification Center, Mr. Feng Xin, President of Shanghai Airport Authority, Mr. Tang Bing, Deputy Secretary of the Party Leadership Group of China Eastern Airlines, Mr. Xu Kaizhuo, Mr. Xi Sheng, Mr. Zhou Qimin, Mr. Feng Dehua, Mr. Cheng Guowei and Mr. Liu Tiexiang, Members of the Party Leadership Group of China Eastern Airlines, Mr. Tan Wangeng, Deputy Secretary of the Party Committee and Director of COMAC, Mr. Zhao Jiufang, Mr. Wu Yongliang, Mr. Guo Bozhi, Mr. Zhou Xinmin and Mr. Zhang Yujin, Members of Standing Committee of the Party Committee of COMAC, Mr. Wang Junjin, Chairman of JuneYao Group, and Mr. Sun Donglin, Executive Vice President of Shanghai Jiushi (Group) Co., Ltd., attended the signing ceremony. Mr. Wu Yongliang presided over the ceremony.
Mr. Liu Shaoyong expressed heartfelt thanks to Shanghai Municipal Government for its concern about and support to China Eastern Airlines, extended warm congratulations to COMAC on its development achievements, and expressed heartfelt gratitude to the industry authorities and all sectors of society for their support and help. He expressed that he was very pleased to welcome new members to the big family of China Eastern Airlines. This would mark the beginning of the China-made trunk liner into a commercial operation era, and would open a new chapter for the China-made civil aircraft industry. China Eastern Airlines had become the world's first launch customer of C919, which was a concrete action for both sides to deeply study and implement Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era, was a concrete action to highlight the "six strengths" of Central State-owned Enterprises (SOE), and was of special significance in beginning the 14th Five-Year Plan, starting a new phase, and building a new pattern. As a good aircraft was determined by both its manufacturing technology and its flight performance, China Eastern Airlines would shoulder a significant mission to operate the China-made aircraft well, achieve the goals of flying safely, creating benefits, setting up a brand and realizing ambition, and make new and greater contributions to the construction of the "five centers" of Shanghai and the building of a new development pattern, so as to celebrate the Centenary of the Founding of the Chinese Communist Party with more excellent achievements.
Mr. He Dongfeng expressed heartfelt thanks to Shanghai Municipal Government for its long-term support to and concern about the trunk liner career, to China Eastern Airlines for its trust in and support to the China-made aircraft, and to Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) and other relevant units for their support and help. He pointed out that the signing of this contract had been a major milestone in the market introduction and commercial operation of C919 aircraft, marked another important step on the road to commercial success of the China-made trunk liner, and fully demonstrated the confidence and determination of China's aviation manufacturing industry and air transport industry to work closely and jointly promote the China-made trunk liner career. At present, all workers on C919 program were striving for the goals of certification and delivery. China Eastern Airlines had been a world-renowned airline and an important strategic partner of COMAC. COMAC would take the spirits of major instructions of General Secretary Xi Jinping on trunk liner career as the guidance, insist on "Safety First" and "Quality First", be earnest and down-to-earth, constantly strive for perfection, adhere to the principle of being customer centered, strive to meet customers' demand, and create value for customers. COMAC would also work together with China Eastern Airlines to make use of the geographical advantage of being both in Shanghai, and jointly explore the commercial success of C919 aircraft.
As one of the largest state-owned backbone airlines, China Eastern Airlines has rich experience and outstanding comprehensive advantages in the commercial operation of large fleet and multiple models of aircraft. By the end of 2020, China Eastern Airlines has a fleet of more than 750 aircraft, which is one of the youngest aircraft fleets in global large-scale aviation enterprises. China Eastern Airlines has built dual core hubs in two cities and four airports with Shanghai and Beijing as the main bases, owns a global route network covering 1036 destinations in 170 countries, and carries more than 130 million passengers annually, ranking among the top 10 in the world.
C919 aircraft is a large jet aircraft independently developed by China and owns independent intellectual property right. The aircraft has completed its maiden flight at Shanghai Pudong International Airport on May 5th, 2017. Since the beginning of the development of C919 aircraft, China Eastern Airlines has been striving to become a facilitator of the improvement and optimization of China-made civil aircraft, an explorer of commercial operation mode and a pioneer of market operation. China Eastern Airlines has signed a launch customer agreement and a Letter of Intent for purchasing C919 aircraft with COMAC in 2010; signed a Framework Cooperation Agreement with COMAC in November 2016 during the 11th China International Aviation & Aerospace Exhibition, becoming the world's first user of C919 aircraft; signed an ARJ21-700 Aircraft Sales Agreement with COMAC in Beijing in August 2019; taken the lead among large state-owned backbone air transport enterprises to set up the first airline specialized in the operation of China-made civil aircraft, i.e., OTT Airlines, in February 2020 during the most severe period of the epidemic of COVID-19, and officially put the China-made ARJ21 aircraft into operation.
China Eastern Airlines has been deeply involved in the design and development of C919 aircraft, trained and provided the first C919 flight crew to fly a jet as a companion during the maiden flight of C919 aircraft, and provided suggestions from the perspectives of customer use and maintenance. Relying on the industrial chain partnership and the geographical advantage of being both in Shanghai, China Eastern Airlines and COMAC have constantly promoted cooperation and innovation on the industrial chain, and jointly explored new practices in the commercial operation of C919 aircraft.
After the signing of the purchase contract, both sides would conduct docking as soon as possible and carry out all the preparatory work before the aircraft is put into operation, including supplementary operation certification of the new model of aircraft, training of professional personnel, signing of customer support and guarantee agreements, etc. Both sides would enhance cooperation in the areas such as aircraft import and export, material maintenance, logistics and warehousing, new technology application, material support, maintenance support and aircraft configuration optimization to ensure the high-quality operation of the first batch of aircraft.
According to the preliminary plan of China Eastern Airlines, the five C919 aircraft would be based in Shanghai and fly from Shanghai to Daxing District of Beijing, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Chengdu, Xiamen, Wuhan and Qingdao to improve the market share of China Eastern Airlines in these markets and bring a "brand new experience" to the passengers of the China-made aircraft. (Editors: He Chun and Zhou Senhao, Photographer: Wang Jiliang)