On May 9, 2019, the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) and the Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China (Comac) held its annual safety summit in Shanghai. A readout of the meeting appeared on the CAAC’s English website a few weeks later, limited to a single terse paragraph stating that the annual meeting “focused on the mounting production and delivery tasks for ARJ21 aircraft and development and certification of C919.”
The same synopsis in Chinese was far more illuminating. “Several recent international civil aviation accidents warn us to pay more attention to the quality and safety of domestic civil aircraft,” according to a translated statement attributed to CAAC Deputy Administrator Li Jian. It’s the first direct sign of internal Chinese reflection on its own process of becoming a global aircraft provider and introspection in the wake of the Boeing 737 Max grounding, which began two months earlier, first with China’s initiation.
While the last decade didn’t include the planned ascendancy of its own aircraft in commercial operation (around 20 ARJ21s are flying today), China spent the teens building the vessel in which it will eventually pour its airplanes; the decade prior was spent reforming China’s aviation system. The nation’s re-debut started with a radical overhaul of its safety regime in 2002. It was a pre-requisite for its explosive growth. “We must grasp the relationship between safety and progress,” the CAAC wrote in May.
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