Maiden flight of C919 jet scheduled for May 5

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The C919, China’s first indigenous large passenger aircraft.Xinhua

The Commercial Aircraft Corp. of China (COMAC) said yesterday that the maiden flight for the C919, China’s first domestically produced large passenger plane, is scheduled for tomorrow.

The maiden flight will take place in the Shanghai Pudong International Airport, subject to weather conditions, said COMAC, the State-owned aviation manufacturer.

The C919, China’s answer to the Boeing 737 and Airbus 320, signals the country’s entry into the global aviation market as a strong competitor, analysts said.

In 2007, plans to develop a Chinese-built large passenger jet were approved by the State Council. In November 2015, the first C919 jet rolled off the assembly line.

“Engineers have completed over 118 tests and are prepared for the maiden flight,” COMAC said.

The plane passed expert technical appraisal this March. It has 158 seats and a standard range of 4,075 kilometers, which means the aircraft can fly nonstop from Shanghai to Kuala Lumpur or from New York City to Los Angeles.

The made-in-China aircraft is due to begin test flights for about three years before being put into commercial use.

COMAC has received 570 orders from 23 foreign and domestic customers, including China’s national carrier Air China, and leasing company General Electric (GE) Capital Aviation Service.

COMAC is yet to release the price tag of the jet, but a report by China National Radio in June predicted that the C919 was likely to be priced at US$50 million, which was up to 30 percent cheaper than a Boeing 737 or an Airbus 320.

Its debut is considered by Chinese media a breakthrough in the history of the country’s civil aviation industry as well as the start of a new chapter in China’s high-end equipment manufacturing.

COMAC also plans a wide-body plane, the C929, in cooperation with Russia’s United Aircraft Corp.

According to Airbus’ Global Market Forecast 2015, in the next 20 years, passenger air traffic will grow annually at 4.6 percent driving a need for around 32,600 new passenger and freighter aircraft.

(SD-Xinhua)

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