Published: Sat, May 06, 2017
Economy | By Melissa Porter

China's narrow-body C919 jet makes maiden flight from Shanghai

China's narrow-body C919 jet makes maiden flight from Shanghai

The C919 single-aisle jet, which can hold up to 168 passengers, soured over Pudong worldwide airport in the commercial hub Shanghai as a crowd of thousands cheered.

The C919 took off from Shanghai Airport amid huge cheers and applause from hundreds of guests, and landed after one and a half hours of flying in the polluted sky. State broadcaster CCTV sent out live footage from the plane, which had no passenger seats installed for the maiden flight.

But the maiden flight is a milestone: While China is already an adept designer of military aircraft, it has struggled to catch up to Boeing and Airbus in manufacturing civilian airliners.

Although COMA's ARJ21 small passenger plane entered domestic service in 2016, the company did not enter the broad worldwide aircraft market.

Harbin Hafei Industry Co Ltd, an aviation manufacturer in Harbin, Heilongjiang province in northeastern China, is mainly responsible for the manufacturing work of some parts that mainly use composite materials. Take the engine, produced by a GE joint venture with France's Safran called CFM.

The C919 - whose key parts include engines and avionics systems provided by 15 worldwide companies such as General Electric and Honeywell - has received 570 orders from 23 foreign and domestic customers, including China's national carrier Air China and leasing company GE Capital Aviation Service.

April 2009: COMAC finishes the C919's initial design and says it aims to send the jet on its maiden flight in 2014, according to the state-owned Beijing News. Boeing, which is reportedly planning to build a facility in China, reportedly congratulated Comac on the plane's development. Of course, the majority of the orders were from government-run companies like Air China, China Southern and China Eastern Airlines.

November 2016: COMAC said total orders for the C919 had reached 570 from 23 customers, made up of a mix of firm orders and options.

"The aircraft requires Western certification to compete directly with Airbus and Boeing in major markets".

Royce predicted that demand for the C919 will be cantered in the Chinese market and a few satellite markets in the early years of service.

It took Comac seven years to get its first aircraft, the regional ARJ-21 jet, into production after its debut flight in 2008.

But there is still a long way to go down the road to a globally competitive aerospace industry.

The development of C919 has been a topic of national pride in China, where COMAC sought to imbue it with Chinese characteristics.

Boeing estimates that the country will need a trillion dollars worth of new airplanes over the next two decades, including more than 5,100 of the same size as the C919. The planemaker is targeting the first test flight in 2023 and delivery three years later. "Boeing has 100 years, Airbus has over 40 years", Si Jingzhe, an analyst with Sinolink Securities, told Reuters.

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