June 28, 2017

China downplays expectations from homemade C919 jet

14 May 2017, 04:03 | Archie Newman

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China's C919 passenger jet, manufactured by Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China (COMAC), flew for the first time today.

A Chinese-made C919 passenger jet takes off on its first flight at Pudong International Airport in Shanghai, Friday, May 5, 2017.

Built by state-owned aircraft corporation Comac, the C919 is created to seat 155-175 with a range of 2,530 miles.

Comac's C919 narrowbody airliner made its debut flight from China's Shanghai Pudong International Airport on Friday, ending a year-and-a-half wait since its factory rollout in November 2015. The maiden flight was broadcast by the state-run China Central Television, stressing that the development of the C919 is a key national project, comparable with the completion of China's first aircraft carrier, launched in April, and the refueling of a Chinese space laboratory by the Tianzhou 1 supply ship the same month.

It can accommodate between 158 and 168 seats, and has a range of 4,075 to 5,555 kilometres.

According to Comac, a total of 570 orders for the aircraft have been obtained from 23 customers.

Comac has applied for Type Certification for the C919 from both the Civil Aviation Administration of China and the European Aviation Safety Agency.

But it seems credible that a China-based competitor could take a significant chunk of business, since the Chinese market is on course to become the world's largest as measured by aircraft and passengers. "Eventually it needs to have some cornerstone customers, of which it will have because there are state-owned airlines, some of them are going to be forced to use it".

"Aviation is a complex market and you need experience over a long time".

But COMAC may be able to rely on purchases by fast-growing Chinese airlines as it looks to get sales off the ground.

Zhou also said COMAC has applied strict evaluation standards on all its suppliers, and every detail of the experiment has been verified. The C919 "clearly represents the hope to retain China's huge share of the global aviation market at least partially in China", he said. Chinese media said the plane will cost around $50 million, significantly less than a Boeing 737 or Airbus 320, its closest equivalents.

China's new jet, however, likely faces a lengthy journey from first flight to commercial usage.

There is still a long way to go down the road to a globally competitive aerospace industry, however.

Airbus had delivered 153 aircraft to Chinese operators in 2016, its seventh consecutive year of more than 100 deliveries, AirbusChina said earlier this year.

China is expected to beat the U.S. as the world's largest aviation market by 2024, according to the International Air Transport Association.

China is pushing for recognition globally of its certification by European and US regulators.

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