The first large Chinese-made passenger jetliner has taken off on its maiden test flight, a symbolic milestone in China's long-term goal to break into the Western-dominated aircraft market.
People take photos in front of the Chinese C919 passenger jet after its first flight at Pudong International Airport in Shanghai on Friday. 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.
It is now unlikely to carry commercial passengers until at least 2019.
Before the flight, the C919, whose enhanced version has a range of 5,555 kilometers, passed a series of strict tests after rolling off the assembly line in November 2015.
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.
Most of the flights will be on single-aisle jets like the C-919. The mid-haul jet, was due to enter into service next year with China Eastern Airlines, but the aircraft manufacturer is now suggesting first delivery in 2020.
China in recent times has been making big breakthroughs in aviation with new fighter aircraft, including a stealth aircraft, but this is the first time it came out with a passenger plane.
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His call to arms is emblazoned on the wall of the jet's production facility: "Accelerate the construction of the world's top aviation company and continue to make new contributions to develop a strong aviation industry".
487 million: That's the number of domestic and global journeys made previous year in China, according to data from the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC).
The C919 aircraft is the first large civil jet aircraft developed by China.
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 a year ago alone.
Comac says more than 200 Chinese companies and 36 universities have been involved in research and development of the C919. The country is already an adept designer of military aircraft, but has sought to catch up to Boeing in the US and Airbus in Europe in manufacturing civilian airliners.
"What really impresses me with COMAC and with Chinese aerospace industry as a whole is that, we have traditional aerospace cycles in Europe and North America every 10, 15 years", Merluzeau said. The C919 project was first conceived in 2008 with the intent of taking market share from Boeing and Airbus.
The smaller regional jet is a rival to aircraft made by Bombardier Inc. of Canada and Brazil's Embraer SA.
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