China’s COMAC C919 Gets First Foreign Customer

By Spyros Georgilidakis | September 23, 2023

China has struggled to secure orders for the C919 narrowbody jet from foreign customers, but that looks set to change, thanks to GallopAir.

Many see China’s COMAC as a welcome addition to Boeing’s and Airbus’ current aircraft manufacturer duopoly. Embraer has so far focused on smaller (regional) airliners and as we’ve seen, Bombardier’s CSeries is now the Airbus A220.

China’s COMAC C919 Gets First Foreign Customer
Photo: N509FZ, CC BY-SA 4.0

COMAC has struggled to complete sales of its C919 to foreign operators. Other than discussions with some foreign lessors, the type has seen little international interest. But COMAC secured a foreign sale for the ARJ21, its first aircraft, last year.

The ARJ21 is the same size (and largely the same shape) as the MD-90/95/B717, versions of which have previously been assembled in China. COMAC’s first customer of the type is TransNusa in Indonesia, with orders for 28.

Photo: TransNusa

And now it seems that it’s the turn of the C919, to get its first foreign customer and operator. COMAC has reportedly signed a letter of intent for 15 C919s with Brunei-based GallopAir. The LOI also includes terms for the purchase of 15 ARJ21s.

COMAC C919 – A Foreign Sale With Domestic Help?

So far, it is unclear how soon this letter of intent could actually become a final contract. Also, there are some questions about GallopAir itself. This is an airline startup, that has yet to start operations, for which there is very little information.

Photo: N509FZ, CC BY-SA 4.0

Crucially, one bit of information we do have about GallopAir is that the airline has Chinese investors. It was actually a Chinese investor in GallopAir, the Shaanxi Tianju Investment Group, that broke this story earlier this week.

This foreign sale of the C919 could be part of a pattern. Indonesia’s TransNusa, the first foreign customer of the COMAC ARJ21, also has Chinese backing, from the China Aircraft Leasing Group (CALC).

China’s COMAC C919 Gets First Foreign Customer
Photo: N509FZ, CC BY-SA 4.0

Still, with many Chinese companies investing in foreign ventures in Asia and China, the C919 could have some potential in these markets. We will have to see how well COMAC will be able to cope with the production and supply chain hurdles involved in producing such an aircraft.

Other than the bare airframe, the C919’s and ARJ21’s engines and most other systems come from foreign suppliers. These are the same suppliers that Boeing and Airbus rely on – so COMAC will be facing the same supply chain headaches as its older and more established competitors.



  • The ones that crashed?

  • Oh, you mean the one that crashed on Indonesia and Ethiopia?

  • Nicholas McKenna

    Personally I’m always happy when I find my flight is an Airbus. Flew recently on a Dreamliner, which is a very nice plane. Don’t
    think I have confidence to fly with a plane until they have an established safety record.

  • Johannes Sennahoj

    As its close to the A320 it’s at least superior to the Boeing 737 in nearly all terms. Still would stick to the original Airbus but hopefully we will see a more competitive environment for Airbus and Boeing soon. This would hopefully lead Boeing to develop something new instead of their nowadays crappy 737-max. (Former 737 are a good planes though, but it gets too outdated to be maintained with new engines).

  • CFM is making a LEAP-1 engine for it (the -1C variation)

  • Personally, I hope the COMACs do well if only to give Boeing a kick in the pants to bring new high-quality products to the market again.

  • Is this plane certified in any country outside of China and what about spare parts…last I heard it wasn’t certified!

  • Jonathan Roberts

    The C919, is an excellent aircraft , and had a lot of western involvement, much of the design and avionics, are from Western suppliers . It’s believed it uses the same Pratt and Whitney engines as the A320 neo or A220/Embraer E2 series jets . From the various airline publications, it is said Airbus and ex airbus engineers were involved in developing the aircraft and Boeing engineers as well, like the A220 it’s cockpit all touch screen and modern , is very similar to the A220 and A320, also the Embraer Ejets cockpits , to allow pilots to transition to this type .
    Although forgotten by the media , let’s not forget Ryanair , looked very seriously as t this aircraft as its price is much cheaper than the now aged 737 design , despite the new Max 737’s having modern avionics and engines , is still past its sell by date . Ryanair may still be the European airline , that is listed as confidential, but there is a European airline with a large order of over 50 aircraft.
    It’s very impressive, even if it is clearly influenced by the Airbus A320 series .
    Keeping politics out of this , but I hope it does well, just because it’s Chinese , doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be able to thrive in a market that is limited in aircraft types . Even the A320 is getting old now . So I’d wish comac all the best of luck , and would love to take a flight on one ..but I can believe that Ryanair who will cut costs where it can , would be a perfect pairing and match for each other . The comac has more range , and more capacity than the 737’s of the Ryanair fleet . From what has been written of the C919 it could cross the Atlantic from Dublin and the UK .

  • Step right up. Be the first one to fly on a brand new design aircraft
    from a brand new Chinese startup
    Made of Chinese parts by mechanics assembling their first aircraft.
    Take extra may find the missing Malaysia Airliner

  • Another hater, nothing new here. Moving right along.

  • Buy Boeing or Airbus.

    We all know what Chinesium is by now.

  • Typical American comment.Why not mention Airbus as well? because you folks despise competition from other nations. You see competition as a threat to remaining as world power. Sanctions or not, China is here and they can’t be stopped.

  • They’ll be sorry. Buy the best. Buy Boeing.

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