China's first big passenger plane takes off for maiden flight

  • China's first big passenger plane takes off for maiden flight

China's first big passenger plane takes off for maiden flight

In 2007, plans to develop a Chinese-built large passenger jet were approved by the State Council. It was technically ready for takeoff in March this year.

The C919, made by state-owned Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China (COMAC), relies on overseas technology from firms including General Electric, France's Safran, Honeywell International Inc and United Technologies Corp subsidiary UTC Aerospace Systems. He added the project is in line with the spirit of "aeronautical patriotism".

It will have a range of between 4,075 and 5,555km (2,532 - 3,452 miles).

The C919's maiden passenger flight took place today in the skies over Shanghai. (The plane also has one US 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.

The flight makes China the fourth jumbo jet producer after the United States, West Europe and Russian Federation.

Boeing has projected that China's fast-expanding middle class will create the first $1 trillion air travel market, needing about 7,000 extra aircraft over the next 20 years - about 30 percent of the world's total demand.

Isaac Stone Fish, a journalist and a senior fellow at the Asia Society, said China considers the C919 a sign of its growing role in the global economy. He also noted that the C919 has already received 566 orders. Two years later, the C919 maker COMAC was established in Shanghai.

The C919 on display in Shanghai, China.

Michel Merluzeau, director of Aerospace & Defence Market Analysis for AirInsightResearch in Seattle, was also impressed by the great efforts made by the Chinese government in accelerating innovation. It was finally moved to the company's Flight Test Centre in December. "For Honeywell, which has invested heavily in China's aviation industry, we are picking the victor", said Steven Lien, president of Honeywell Aerospace Asia Pacific.

The C919 is a competitor for Airbus' A320 and Boeing's 737 and will offer configurations of between 158 and 172 seats. "Boeing has 100 years, Airbus has over 40 years". "The expectation for the C919 is not to become the best-selling single-aisle aircraft in the market, but rather become a stepping stone for COMAC to build something better, with indigenous technology".

The European Aviation Safety Agency has started the certification process for the C919 - a crucial step for the aircraft to be successful on the global market.

The start of aerial testing kicks off months or years of grueling certification tests, and meeting safety standards might require design changes.

"Our goal, of course, is to become the third player sharing the market with Boeing and Airbus", Yang Chao, the dean of Beihang University's School of Aeronautics and Engineering, told the dpa news agency.

"China is willing to share growth opportunities with the rest of the world".