China's first homemade passenger plane makes maiden flight

The twin-engine plane had five crew members and no passengers.

With a standard range of 4,075 kilometres, the narrow-body jet is comparable with updated Airbus 320 and Boeing's new generation 737, signalling the country's entry into the global aviation market, Xinhua news agency commented.

A Commercial Aircraft Corp. of China Ltd. (Comac) C919 aircraft takes off at the Pudong International Airport in Shanghai on May 5, 2017.

But Richard Aboulafia, an aerospace analyst at Teal Group, told Bloomberg News that China may have to wait till its next aircraft to really break the duopoly for jets that can carry more than 100 passengers.

China's indigenously built C919 passenger jet finally took to the skies on its long-delayed maiden flight today. However, the aircraft was not rolled out until October 2015 following program delays. Both companies said in November that they have started the hunt for suppliers, and they're aiming to conduct a maiden flight for the C929 in 2022.

The plane passed expert technical appraisal this March.

The takeoff of the C919 elicited cheers and applause from hundreds of invited guests on the ground at Shanghai Pudong International Airport and was broadcast live on Chinese state television.

The C919 - whose key parts include engines and avionics systems provided by 15 worldwide companies such as General Electric and Honeywell - has received 570 orders from 23 foreign and domestic customers, including China's national carrier Air China and leasing company GE Capital Aviation Service. This follows the move by its chief rival Airbus to set up a final assembly plant in China in 2008.

Over the next 20 years, the global jet market is estimated to be worth $2 trillion. However, after the launch of COMAC C919 by Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China, the manufacturer has been receiving the orders from domestic airlines incessantly.

About 3,000 people witnessed the historic moment of the first flight of the narrow-body jetliner. (The plane also has one USA buyer: General Electric Capital Aviation Services, a supplier to the C919 program, ordered 20 planes from Comac.) And that's a small drop in the bucket compared to Boeing, which can roll out 400-500 Boeing 737's a year.

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". "On a symbolic level, it also shows huge progress for China's civil aircraft industry", Royce said. Of the new planes, 75% are expected to be single-aisle.

According to its designers, the commercialization of the C919 will take two to three years before getting certification from the Civil Aviation Administration of China.

"Airbus and Boeing have spent decades competing fiercely against each other and are lean and mean in the airliner market".

  • Zachary Reyes