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Nigeria Air Open To China’s COMAC C919 Narrowbody

  • comac-arj21-2020-deliveries-getty

    Comac

    Business Type:
    Planemaker

    Date Founded:
    2008-05-11

    CEO:
    He Dongfeng

    Headquarters Location:
    Shanghai, China

    Key Product Lines:
    Comac ARJ21, Comac C919, Comac C929

Nigeria Air is not ruling out COMAC’s C919 as it looks to bulk up its fleet ahead of a relaunch, according to Nigerian Aviation Minister Haidi Sirika.


Keeping an open mind

The upcoming flag carrier has its eyes set on a fleet of roughly 30 aircraft by 2025, comprised mainly of Boeing and Airbus jets; however, Sirika remains open-minded to the possibility of China’s freshly certified C919.

“We haven’t looked at that C919. But if it’s as good as the others, then why not,” Sirika told Reuters at the United Nation’s aviation assembly on Saturday. “China and Nigeria have a very cordial and friendly relationship with mutual benefits.”

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COMAC’s C919 is the first competitor to go up against the Airbus and Boeing narrowbody duopoly since Tupolev’s TU-204 in 1996. Photo: Getty Images

A C919 order would make Nigeria Air the first international customer for the narrowbody jet. Nigeria previously examined COMAC in 2017, with the State Government of Kaduna opening talks with the Shanghai-based aircraft manufacturer on leasing its aircraft to Nigerian carriers willing to base themselves out of Kaduna International Airport.

China has worked closely with the Nigerian government for several decades, having invested heavily in infrastructure and energy across the region. Nigeria is currently the largest importer of Chinese goods in Africa, with around $24 billion traveling into the country in 2021. A partnership within the aviation industry appears to be a natural next step for both nations.

COMAC’s comeback

Comments from Sirika appear to have come at the perfect time for COMAC, with the C919 receiving safety certification from the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) on Friday, a significant step as it edges closer toward its planned entry into service next year.

Established in 2008 to rival the Airbus and Boeing duopoly, the C919 is set to become the first competitor to the A320 and 737 programs to enter service since the Tupolev TU-204 in 1996.

The jet seats 174 passengers in a single class configuration, around the same as the Airbus A320neo and Boeing 737 MAX-8, offering a range of up to 3,000 NM (5,555 km) in its extended variant.

While Nigeria Air remains open-minded, the C919 would require approval by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) prior to entering into service, posing a challenge to the carrier’s 2025 timeline. Photo: Getty Images

COMAC’s C919 currently has 815 orders from 28 customers, all based within the People’s Republic of China, according to the manufacturers’ website. Launch customer China Eastern Airlines is the only carrier to have laid out a full delivery schedule, with four C919s joining its fleet next year.

Also projected for a 2023 launch, Nigeria Air is ramping up its operations. Having received its Air Operators Certificate (AOC) in June, the carrier recently unveiled plans for its partnership with Ethiopian Airlines, accelerating the timeline.

Nigeria Air is set to launch with three 737-800s by June 2023. The jets will be configured in a two-class configuration, offering 16 business class and 150 economy seats

While international expansion is still in the planning phase, the carrier will open with a shuttle service between Abuja and Lagos, with further domestic destinations to be announced after launch.

What are your thoughts on Nigeria Air being open to the C919? What airlines would you like to see operate the jet? Let us know in the comments.

Sources: Reuters (1) (2)

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