CHINA’S FIRST BIG JETLINER TO MAKE MAIDEN FLIGHT
It is sign of growing Chinese ambition and technical skill
THIS week, China is expected to conduct a maiden test flight of a home-grown passenger jet built to meet soaring domestic travel demand and challenge the dominance of Boeing and Airbus.
According to the official Xinhua news agency, the company said yesterday the C919, built by state-owned aerospace manufacturer Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China (Comac), was set to take wing here on Friday.
“If weather conditions are not suitable, the maiden flight will be rescheduled,” Comac said.
It said engineers had completed some 118 tests.
The narrow-body jet represents nearly a decade of effort in a state-mandated drive to reduce dependence on European consortium Airbus and United States aerospace giant Boeing.
“The first flight itself is not a huge deal.
“But, it is going to be a hugely symbolic moment in the evolution of China’s aviation industry,” said industry publication Flightglobal Asia managing editor Greg Waldron.
The C919 is the country’s first big passenger plane and the latest sign of growing Chinese ambition and technical skill, coming one week after China launched its first domestically-made aircraft carrier and docked a cargo spacecraft with an orbiting space lab.
The C919 can seat 168 passengers and has a range of 5,555km.
China is a huge battleground for Boeing and Airbus, with its travellers taking to the skies in ever-growing numbers.
The Chinese travel market was expected to surpass the US by 2024, according to the International Air Transport Association. But, aviation analysts said Comac had a long journey ahead before it could challenge Boeing and Airbus.
“This new aircraft is an important milestone for China with this new aircraft. But, for it to move to the next stage, which is to sell this product, is not going to be so easy,” said Malaysia-based aviation consultancy Endau Analytics analyst Shukor Yusof.
China’s first big passenger plane, the C919, on display at a facility in Shanghai on Nov 2, 2015.