The plane took off for the first time on Friday and the move is seen as a huge intentional statement by Beijing to break into the aircraft market that has long been dominated by western countries. Hundreds of guests witnessed the take off at the Shanghai Pudong International Airport. The event was also live on state TV. As it gathered height with cheers from the ground, the plane finally disappeared into the dark and polluted sky. The state-run news agency Xinhua reported that the plane represented China’s entrance into the global jumbo jet manufacturing market.
China is now the fourth producer of jumbo jets after the US, Russia, and Europe. The C919, as the jet is known, has been touted by China as the next big thing that will be able to rival Airbus A320 and the Boeing 737. The plane was originally set to fly in 2014 before it was delivered to buyers in 2016. However, due to problems in manufacturing, the proposed launch date was pushed forward. Even though the plane has already taken its maiden flight, it is highly unlikely that it will be able to carry passengers before 2019. The jetliner was set for a one and half hour test flight.
If indeed the test goes according to the plan, the aircraft maker will then seek permission from the Chinese Civil Aviation Authority and other foreign regulatory agencies before it can commence its commercial flights. The plane was manufactured by the state-run Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China. The company has said that it will make two planes per year from now until 2019. The aim here is to get a proof of safe flight before mass production can begin. At the moment, the company has already received 570 orders from various customers, mostly state-owned airlines in the country.
GE Capital Aviation Services and the Thailand City Airways are among a handful of foreign customers who have placed orders on the C919. The plane is designed with a standard flight length of about 4,075 kilometers and will feature between 155 and 175 seats. China is looking to transition itself from low-cost manufacturing to high-tech profitable manufacturing. The launch of this plane is seen as the first step towards this goal. The plane’s manufacturer has added that the research and development team have included a wide range of experts including 200 companies and 36 universities in the country.
Source: Hindustan Times (http://www.hindustantimes.com/world-news/china-s-first-homemade-passenger-plane-makes-maiden-flight/story-8sFom8uUOnBwIGUvJ2d0LN.html)
However, the plane still relies heavily on foreign technology for very important systems. The plane’s engine, for example, is made by CFM International. CFM International is a company owned jointly by General Electric and Safran Aircraft Engines in France. However, China is expected to start making its own engines by 2020. AVIC Commercial Aircraft Engine Co. Ltd will be the company responsible for this task. It’s now only a matter of time before the C919 hits mass production.