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China eyes global market after Comac C919 maiden flight

China eyes global market after Comac C919 maiden flight

The first large Chinese-made passenger jet has taken off on its maiden flight, a key milestone for a country seeking a place in the global aviation market.

The flight makes China the fourth jumbo jet producer after the United States, West Europe and Russian Federation. It was built by state-owned Commercial Aircraft Corp. of China or Comac.

The plane took off from Pudong airport in Shanghai earlier, safely landing after a 90 minute flight.

The aircraft took off at 2:01 pm local time, and remained aloft for more than an hour before returning at 3:19 pm.

"The maiden flight is exciting", said Wu Guanghui, the C919's chief designer, hailing it as the start of a new era in China's advanced manufacturing.

The C919 carries 170 passengers and has a range of more than 5,500 kilometers, meaning it will match up against the Boeing 737 and Airbus A20 in a fast-growing aviation market. In November 2015, the first C919 jet rolled off the assembly line.

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But the jet likely faces a lengthy journey from the first flight to commercial usage.

"The large passenger aircraft flying in the blue sky makes generations of Chinese people's dream come true". The plane also included parts like the engines, its cockpit and its belly made by Western industrial giants like General Electric and Honeywell. Adopting a cutting-edge engine and other components, the C919 is considered comparable with the rival planes in quality, said Yasuo Hashimoto, senior researcher at Japan Aviation Management Research. As they claim to have 570 orders from 23 customers, mostly state-owned Chinese airlines.

Douglas Royce, an aerospace expert at Forecast International, an aerospace market research firm, told Xinhua that "the Chinese government is interested in establishing independence and self-sufficiency in all aspects of aviation, so it is as much a national project as it is a commercial venture".

It is engaged in a long-term process of catching up to Europe, the United States, and Russian Federation in commercial aircraft, he said. To meet that demand, Boeing predicts that China will need 6,800 new airplanes, valued at $1 trillion, over that time period, as its economy and middle class continue to grow. Even in China's domestic market, COMAC has a long way to go to turn technical success into business success.

According to Chinese media, it will cost around $50m, less than half of a Boeing 737 or Airbus A320.

The development comes as a major step for Beijing as it looked to raise its profile in the global aviation market and boost domestic high-tech manufacturing. By the end of previous year, 21 customers had placed orders for more than 500 C919 aircraft, and COMAC expects to sell at least 2,000.


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