China`s homemade C919 passenger jet makes successful flight

Randall Padilla
May 7, 2017

One year behind the original schedule, the made-in-China C919, manufactured by state-owned company Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China (COMAC), took off from Shanghai's Pudong International Airport and completed a 90-minute journey. China hopes, in the course of time, to convert the current worldwide airliner duopoly of Airbus and Boeing into a triumvirate, by making Comac a major manufacturer as well.

A China Eastern Airlines jet taxis near a Chinese C919 passenger jet before its scheduled first flight at Pudong International Airport in Shanghai, Friday, May 5, 2017.

"Using a number of existing advantages, including the possibility of some price reduction due to its own very large domestic market and the attraction of cheap credit resources from Chinese state-owned banks, China will be able to compete seriously with American and European producers and catch up with them", Kashin said. With China's aviation market growing rapidly as a rising middle class travels more for leisure and business, the C919 aircraft is also expected to eventually take market share from Boeing and Airbus in the lucrative narrow-body market, which accounts for more than 50 percent of the aircraft in service worldwide.

The plane, which can carry 158-168 passengers, had no passenger seats installed for the maiden flight. A total of 23 domestic and foreign customers have placed orders.

COMAC will seek airworthiness certificates from the Civil Aviation Administration of China and foreign aviation safety regulators before making its first deliveries slated for around 2019.

Airbus had delivered 153 aircraft to Chinese operators in 2016, its seventh consecutive year of more than 100 deliveries, AirbusChina said earlier this year.

Levine said the Western giants had good reason to be sanguine about the C919's development.

A recent Boeing forecast said China will need 6,810 new aircraft in the next 20 years at an estimated cost of United States dollars one trillion.

A successful test flight is critical to the research and development of large passenger planes, while the follow-up research is still arduous, said Vice Premier Ma Kai.

The C919's maiden flight was watched by people around the globe, including at least 2 million on Chinese microblogging platform Weibo.

The flight puts China in the ranks of the small group of nations like the U.S. and Germany who have developed homegrown large airliners.

The jet symbolises China's ambitions to gain entry into a global jet market, estimated at $2 trillion, over the next two decades, as also Beijing's broader "Made in China 2025" plan to boost home-made products, from medicines to robots.

"The expectation is that C919 will build a derivative that will meet FAA standards, which aviation experts believe will take [another] seven years", he added.

The aircraft's first flight marks the first step in a testing campaign that will run up to 4,200 hours, and involve six test aircraft.

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