Published: Thu, May 11, 2017
Markets | By Noel Gibbs

China's homemade passenger jet aces first flight

China's homemade passenger jet aces first flight

The C919, made by state-owned Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China, has seen its test flight pushed back at least twice since 2014 due to production issues, underlining the scale of the task facing Beijing.

The maiden sortie, flown from Shanghai's Pudong International airport, was broadcast live on Chinese television, with a camera behind the pilot's shoulder.

If Friday's maiden flight is successful, C919's state-owned maker Commercial Aircraft Corp. of China Ltd. (Comac) will approach the country's civil aviation authority and foreign regulators for certification, before making any deliveries.

The successful flight signals China's entry into the global aviation market, and moves the country one step closer to transforming itself from a manufacturer of low-priced goods to a creator of advanced technology. As they claim to have 570 orders from 23 customers, mostly state-owned Chinese airlines.

Air China (601111.CN), China Eastern Airlines (600115.CN) and China Southern Airlines (600029.CN) together placed US$20 billion worth of orders for new aircraft past year alone.

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The twin-engine C919, whose name sounds like the Chinese word for "everlasting", has a range of 5,555 kilometers.

According to Reuters.com, the C919 passed over the Yangtze River delta during its long-awaited maiden flight and conducted several midair tests before landing successfully at Shanghai Pudong International Airport in front of thousands of cheering dignitaries, aviation workers and enthusiasts.

China's homegrown large passenger plane C919 makes its maiden flight in Shanghai, east China, on May 5.

China's first domestically made jet, the twin-engined regional ARJ-21, flew its passengers in June 2016, eight years after its first test flight.

But the reaction on social media was a little more muted, with some pointing out that the flight was a reminder of how far China still lagged behind the West.

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Boeing has projected that China's fast-expanding middle class will create the first $1 trillion air travel market, needing about 7,000 extra aircraft over the next 20 years - about 30 percent of the world's total demand. Meanwhile, the second C919 is now being produced at Comac's plant in Pudong, and is expected to make its first test flight in the second half of this year.

"Boeing has a long-term view and strategy for the China market", said John Burns, president of Boeing China.

"The plane will not pose as a threat to Boeing or Airbus", he said.

"Our goal, of course, is to become the third player sharing the market with Boeing and Airbus", Yang Chao, the dean of Beihang University's School of Aeronautics and Engineering, told the dpa news agency.

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

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