CHINA’S FIRST BIG JETLINER TO MAKE MAIDEN FLIGHT

It is sign of growing Chi­nese am­bi­tion and tech­ni­cal skill

New Straits Times - - World -

SHANG­HAI

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.

AFP PIC

China’s first big pas­sen­ger plane, the C919, on dis­play at a fa­cil­ity in Shang­hai on Nov 2, 2015.

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