China today rolls out its first home-made large passenger jet from the production line in Shanghai. If the plane is well-received, it will be considered a big move to challenge the dominance of Airbus and Boeing in the global commercial aviation arena.
A shiny Comac C919 with white fuselage, blue wavy stripe and a green tail took breath away of the audience. It was towed beneath a banner with the phrase “a dream takes off”. It gracefully carried a huge Chinese national flag.
The C919 is a twin-engine narrow-body aircraft. It has seating capacity up to 174 people. It appears similar in size to the Airbus 320 and Boeing 737 series of jets. It has a flying range of up to 5,555 kilometers (3,451 miles) and suitable for popular business and leisure routes from China such as Shanghai to Singapore and Beijing to Bangkok.
The C919 project was launched in 2008. It is not the first time Chinese have tried their hand at commercial jets. In 80s, they had a failed attempt. But, things are different since China has become one big economy.
The maiden flight of the C919 is likely to be a year away. The Communist government wants to use the C919 as a springboard to develop a nationwide aviation industry. If it stays committed to the cause, it will require involvement of more than 200 companies, 36 universities and hundreds of thousands of personnel in the development of the plane.
Chinese media is touting the “advanced technologies” used in the plane like: new avionics, and composite materials.
C919 chief designer Wu Guanghui tells Flightglobal that all major systems have been installed on aircraft 101, and that the aircraft is ready to start ground tests. On the maiden flight next year, he says: “We’re very confident.”
Comac has received commitments for 517 jets. Most of these orders come from Chinese airlines and leasing companies.