China's first domestically-designed airliner makes its maiden flight

People take photos in front of the Chinese C919 passenger jet after its first flight at Pudong International Airport in Shanghai on Friday.

The C919 - whose key parts include engines and avionics systems provided by 15 global 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. It began developing its own large passenger jets in the 1970s and the first one, the Y-10, had a successful test flight in 1980.

The plane can be configured with 155-175 seats and has a standard flight length of 4,075 kilometers (2,530 miles).

Comac says it has 570 orders from 23 domestic and foreign customers.

Eric Chen, president of Airbus Commercial Aircraft China, said in an emailed statement: "We believe C919 will bring new competition to the market".

China took a major step toward becoming a global aviation powerhouse as its homegrown large passenger plane, the C919, took to the sky in Shanghai on May 5. "The first aircraft rolled out on November 2nd, 2015".

After about 90 minutes in the air the plane landed safely back at Pudong airport in Shanghai.

The government says the ability to build and fly a modern passenger plane would be the "pearl" and "flower" of modern manufacturing, a centerpiece of the government's "Made in China 2025" industrial plan that also includes ambitions to develop world-class robotics, advanced information technology, medicines and hi-tech transport industries.

Gu Bin, an aviation expert from China's Aviation Industry Cooperation, told The Guardian that he predicted the C919 would "rip a hole" in the Airbus-Boeing duopoly.

"The flight makes China the fourth jumbo jet producer after the United States, Europe and Russian Federation, " the Xinhua news agency reported after the C919 flew north over the Yangtze River delta, performed various manoeuvres before returning south along the coast. "Boeing has 100 years, and Airbus has over 40 years", said Sinolink Securities analyst Si Jingzhe.

China's first large homemade passenger jetliner is due to make its maiden flight from Shanghai later Friday, May 5, 2017.

"This is just the test flight", he said. Adopting a cutting-edge engine and other components, the C919 is considered comparable with the rival planes in quality, said Yasuo Hashimoto, senior researcher at Japan Aviation Management Research. Boeing, which is reportedly planning to build a facility in China, reportedly congratulated Comac on the plane's development. China Eastern Airlines Corp., the nation's second-largest airline, will be the first carrier to take delivery.

Royce also added that "it will be very hard for COMAC to break into western markets, particularly when very few airlines have experience with using COMAC's aircraft in service". This includes the electrical system and landing gear, which are produced in the U.S. by Honeywell International.

  • Zachary Reyes