First China-made passenger jet debuts to challenge Being, Airbus

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Chinese passenger jet C919 performs at the China International Aviation and Aerospace Exhibition, or Airshow China, in Zhuhai, Guangdong province. — Reuters
Chinese passenger jet C919 performs at the China International Aviation and Aerospace Exhibition, or Airshow China, in Zhuhai, Guangdong province. — Reuters

China’s first indigenously-made commercial aeroplane completed its maiden flight Sunday flying from Shanghai Hongqiao Airport and landing in Beijing in less than two hours with 130 passengers on board.

According to the Chinese newspaper China Daily, the C919 single-aisle plane was built by the Commercial Aviation Corporation of China, as Beijing eyes to enter the global aircraft market, posing tough competition to the aircraft manufacturer giants Airbus and Boeing.

Airbus’s A320 and Boeing’s B737 jets are the most popular aircraft typically used for domestic and regional flights.

The flight was operated by state-owned China Eastern Airlines and the side of the plane was emblazoned with the words: “The World’s First C919.”

While Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China (COMAC) designed many of the C919’s parts, some of its key components are still brought from the West, including the engine.

The company further intends to build 150 C919 planes every year for the next five years, according to earlier state media reports.

The C919, which had been under construction for 16 years, can maximally fly about 3,500 miles and is designed to aboard between 158 and 168 passengers.

Over 1,200 C919 jetliners have been ordered, COMAC says, with China Eastern Airlines under contract to buy five of them.

The aircraft provided a boost to the aspirations of the Chinese President Xi Jinping who aimed for technological self-sufficiency keeping in view the strained relations with the US.

“The successful development of the C919 indicates that China has the ability to independently develop large passenger aircraft,” Xinhua, the state broadcaster said.

Back in October, President Xi hosted the C919 development team at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, praising the group “as the backbone” of the country and “heroes”.

“Having Chinese airliners fly in the sky embodies the will of our country, the dream of our nation and the expectations of our people,” Xi said then, adding that the advances in domestic manufacturing would “help realise the Chinese Dream of national rejuvenation”.

As the C919 took flight Sunday, Xinhua stated: “Its safety, reliability, and environmental protection performance have been comprehensively assessed.” 

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