China's first large homemade passenger jet, touted as a competitor to Boeing and Airbus, made its maiden flight from Shanghai on Friday, signalling the Communist country's entry into the global aviation industry.
The C-919, built in Shanghai, took off from the city's Pudong airport on Friday afternoon, following a brief ceremony.
The plane took off at 2:00 pm and was expected to fly for an hour and a half as ministers, COMAC staff, company partners and others looked on.
Michel Merluzeau, director of AirInsightResearch, an aerospace & defence market analysis and consulting group, based in Seattle, toldXinhua that he was impressed by the role of the Chinese government and the Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China (COMAC), the manufacturer of the C919, to accelerate innovation and implement innovative programs. It was originally due to begin flying in 2014 and be delivered to buyers in 2016, but has been beset by delays blamed on manufacturing problems.
It is now unlikely to carry commercial passengers until at least 2019.
COMCAR already has 570 orders from 23 clients but aviation website Airline Reporter points out that most-apart from 20 orders from GECAS, an aviation asset management service-are from other state-owned Chinese airlines and questions remain over whether the C919s will have global appeal.
The C919 can seat 168 passengers in a single-class, economy configuration, 158 across two classes or 174 in a high-density configuration.
The twin-engine plane departed with five crew members on board but without any passengers.
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Experts predict that China will be the world's largest market for airplanes by 2024, requiring 6,800 new planes over the next two decades to satisfy its needs.
People in China, though, are cheering the successful first flight.
However major part of it still relies on foreign-made technology for critical systems, including its engines.
A Commercial Aircraft Corp. of China Ltd. (Comac) C919 aircraft takes off at the Pudong International Airport in Shanghai on May 5, 2017.
Ballantyne said it will be years before the C919 will be able to fully compete with Western-made planes.
"What really impresses me with COMAC and with Chinese aerospace industry as a whole is that, we have traditional aerospace cycles in Europe and North America every 10, 15 years", Merluzeau said.
China is also building various runways across the country slated for test flights of the C919 - which is being targeted at commercially challenging the Boeing 737 and Airbus 320 - including Yaohu airport in Nanchang, Jiangxi province.
State press treated the takeoff of the C919, China's first homegrown passenger jet, from Shanghai's Pudong airport this afternoon like the USA did space launches in the 1960s.
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