China's homegrown jumbo passenger jet takes to the sky

Violet Tucker
May 7, 2017

Guests who witnessed Friday's test flight included Vice Premier Ma Kai and Han Zheng, Communist Party secretary from Shanghai.

State media burst with pride and patriotism as the plane's debut flight from Pudong International Airport in Shanghai was broadcast live, reporting that around 3,000 officials, executives and other onlookers clapped "ecstatically" as the plane landed, carrying a skeleton crew of five pilots and engineers.

The C919 aircraft is the first large civil jet aircraft developed by China.

The development of a wide-bodied passenger jet is now on Comac's radar. The aircraft was publicly unveiled in November 2015. "It has a great impact for the Chinese people and the domestic market".

In 2006, the State Council, China's cabinet, listed jumbo jets as one of 16 major technology projects the country would undertake in the next 15 years. "This is one step in that direction".

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 U.S. aerospace giant Boeing.

Xi visited the government-owned Comac in 2013, before taking office, and his words: "Accelerate the construction of the world's top aviation company and continue to make new contributions to develop a strong aviation industry", remain emblazoned on the walls of its production facility. "It can not be ignored", he said.

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China is also building various runways across the country slated for test flights of the C919 - which is being targeted at commercially challenging the Boeing 737 and Airbus 320 - including Yaohu airport in Nanchang, Jiangxi province.

The European Aviation Safety Agency has started the certification process for the C919 - a crucial step for the aircraft to be successful on the global market.

"If achieved, I think it will greatly enhance the accessible market of C919", he said. "This is a moment we have waited to see for a very long time", Wang Mingfeng told Reuters after witnessing the flight of the 168-passenger plane.

Xinhua correspondents Ma Dan in San Francisco, and Lin Xiaochun in Washington contributed to the story.

The first large Chinese-made passenger jet has taken off on its maiden flight, a key milestone for a country seeking a place in the global aviation market. Those two aircraft have some 80 years' experience between them - 30 years for the A320 and 50 years for the Boeing 737.

Another challenge for the C919 is earning consumers' trust, said Shukor Yusof, an analyst with Malaysia-based aviation consultancy Endau Analytics.

Boeing forecasts that an annual 6 percent growth in China's air passenger traffic over the next two decades will create demand for 6,810 new planes worth a total of $1 trillion - the first trillion-dollar aviation market in its forecast.

Other reports by Guamnewswatch

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