Chinese-Made Passenger Jet Takes Off For Its First Test Flight

Lucy Hill
May 15, 2017

China's first home-built big passenger jet completed its maiden flight on Friday, giving wings to the country's ambitions of taking on industry leaders Boeing and Airbus. Already, COMAC has received 20 orders for the C919 from the US-based aircraft lessor GE Capital Aviation Services, amid a total of 570 orders from domestic and overseas companies.

The 158-seater C919 is being touted as a rival to single-aisle jets the Airbus A320 and Boeing 737. Final ground tests only concluded a few weeks ago, much later than the original schedule of a first flight in 2014, and aircraft delivery in 2016, wrote the media.

Built by state-owned aerospace manufacturer Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China (COMAC), the plane represents almost a decade of effort in a government-mandated drive to reduce dependence on European consortium Airbus and USA aerospace giant Boeing.

The plane can come with 155-175 seats and has a standard flight length of 2,530 miles. China hopes, in the course of time, to convert the current global airliner duopoly of Airbus and Boeing into a triumvirate, by making Comac a major manufacturer as well.

Comac itself functions as the main vehicle in implementing large passenger aircraft programs in China.

China's first large jetliner took its maiden flight on Friday, performing a series of test maneuvers in hazy skies near Shanghai.

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It will still be a while before you'll get the chance to take a flight aboard a C919 with the plane still needing to undergo various tests and safety checks. "We took half a century to solve the first strategic issue [of plane development], it will also take many years to solve the second [market] problem", Jeff Cheng, a spokesman for the Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China (COMAC), told Reuters news agency prior to the maiden flight.

The crucial step for C919 is to get a certification from Europe's aviation safety regulator to be able to survive successfully on the worldwide market.

"The aircraft requires Western certification to compete directly with Airbus and Boeing in major markets". "We are a supplier, customer, competitor and business partner to China's aviation industry".

Then there is also the daunting task of selling the jet in a global market dominated by Boeing and Airbus. The country is already an adept designer of military aircraft, but has sought to catch up to Boeing in the USA and Airbus in Europe in manufacturing civilian airliners.

However, the jet likely faces a lengthy journey from first flight to commercial usage.

After achieving economic growth from low-end manufacturing, the government is pushing a new "Made in China 2025" agenda that aims to make China's domestic output more sophisticated with high added value in areas such as robotics, biotechnology and aviation.

Other reports by TheDailyFarc

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