The 2008 program launch initially targeted a 2014 maiden flight. Comac applied for a type certificate for the aircraft from the Civil Aviation Authority of China on 28 October 2010. The company intends to manufacture up to 2,300 aircraft of that type. In June 2011 COMAC and Irish low-cost airline Ryanair signed an agreement to co-operate on the development of the C919 In 2012 Airbus' chief strategist Marwan Lahoud was assuming that the aircraft would offer competition to Airbus by 2020.
On 24 November 2011, Comac announced the completion of the joint definition phase, marking the end of the preliminary design phase for the C919, with estimated completion of the detailed design phase in 2012. Production of the first C919 testing prototype began on 9 December 2011. The annual production was targeted at 150 planes by 2020.
Its announced development budget is 58 billion yuan ($9.5 billion) but the real cost is estimated 100% higher for well over $20 billion. The flight testbed was expected to enter final assembly in 2014, and perform its first flight in 2015. Delivery was delayed again to 2018 by technology and supplier problems. At the November 2014 Zhuhai Airshow, the first flight was delayed to 2017. C919's advanced aerodynamics were engineered with the help of the Tianhe-2 supercomputer. Comac rolled out its first C919 aircraft off the assembly line in September 2015 with no engines installed.
On 2 November 2015, Comac rolled out its first C919 aircraft. High-speed taxi tests were completed in April 2017. Carrying a crew of five, its first flight took place on 5 May 2017. Comac plan a test program of 4,200 flight hours and introduction in 2020 with China Eastern Airlines.
Dimensions of the C919 are very similar to the Airbus A320, possibly to allow for a common Unit Load Device to be used: its fuselage will be 3.96 meters (13 feet) wide, and 4.166 meters (13 feet, 8 inches) high for a 12.915 square meters (139 square feet) cross-section, its wingspan will be 33.6 meters (110 feet, 3 inches), 35.4 meters (116 feet, 3 inches) with winglets.
Payload will be 20.4 metric tons, it will cruise at Mach 0.785 (450 kn; 834 km/h) at a 12,100 meters (39,800 feet) ceiling and there will be two variants : the standard version with a 4,075 km (2,200 nmi) range, and a 5,555 km (2,999 nmi) extended-range version. At the 2010 Zhuhai Airshow, Comac planned to build a 168-seat (156-seat in two class) base passenger aircraft, as well as stretched and shrunk passenger versions, business jet and freighter models, and a type designated only as "special".
The center wing box, outer wing box, wing panels, flaps, and ailerons are planned to be built in
The wing is supercritical, increasing aerodynamic efficiency by 20% and reducing drag by 8%. Aluminum-lithium alloys account for 8.8% of the structure and composite materials for 12%.
Pratt & Whitney offered its PW1000G geared turbofan. CFM International was ultimately selected to supply its LEAP-1C engine. AVIC Commercial Aircraft Engine Co is tasked to develop indigenous engines. The ACAE CJ-1000A was unveiled at the 2012 Zhuhai Airshow.
The engine's nacelle, thrust reverser and exhaust system will be provided by Nexcelle, with such features as an advanced inlet configuration, the extensive use of composites and acoustic treatment and an electrically operated thrust reverser. Michelin will supply Air X radial tires.
As the 380 units order book in 2012 was worth US$26 billion, its average price was US$68.4 million. FlightGlobal's Ascend market values in 2013 were $49.2 million for the Airbus A320neo, 51% less than its $100.2 million list price and $51.4 million for the Boeing 737 MAX-8, 49% less than its $100.5 million list price. In June 2015 the China National Radio predicted a US$50 million price, cheaper than the B737 or A320 list prices.
The Chinese airlines that have placed orders for the C919 already have either the Boeing 737 or Airbus A320 in their fleets. In 2013, Chinese state-owned newspaper Global Times complained that an Aviation Week editorial about the bleak prospects for the aircraft "maliciously disparaged the future outlook for the C919." COMAC aims to take a fifth of the global narrowbody market and a third of the Chinese market by 2035.