Change is in the air in China as the country’s first domestically made airliner – the C919 – successfully completed its much-delayed maiden flight from Shanghai airport.
Built by state owned company Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China (COMAC), it is a symbol of China’s ambitions to be a player in global aviation.
But production issues have delayed this test flight at least twice since 2014 and it is still years away from challenging Europe’s Airbus and US-based Boeing.
Beijing’s aim is to take market share from the big two in the profitable narrow-body airliner market .. which accounts for more than half of the passenger jets currently in service worldwide.
The C919 is not entirely home-grown it includes key parts – including the engines – from US, European and Japanese suppliers.
TaniaPalme</a> Assembled in <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/China?src=hash">#China</a> is a better description. Many parts come from international <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/aviation?src=hash">#aviation</a> suppliers. Nonetheless a historic moment.<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/C919?src=hash">#C919</a> <a href="https://t.co/HCgqtPASQC">pic.twitter.com/HCgqtPASQC</a></p>— Alexander McDiarmid (McDiarmidDesign) May 5, 2017
The maiden flight brought congratulations from Boeing and Airbus which said it welcomes competition.
Congratulations to our friends at COMAC for the successful 1st flight of the #C919. Let's keep connecting the world.— Boeing Airplanes (@BoeingAirplanes) May 5, 2017
China Eastern Airlines is the launch customer for the plane, which COMAC says has 570 orders from 23 customers.
It is pretty much a given that it will receive orders from state owned airlines. “Every year we spend billions on buying planes,” a COMAC promotional video showed President Xi Jinping saying during a site visit. He added China should become more self-reliant.
COMAC is already looking beyond the C919, with plans to develop a wide-body long-haul jet with Russia.
Hung out with a bunch of patriots/plane geeks to watch #C919's first flight. Great portraits from
DanielPHolmes</a> <a href="https://t.co/cgfC6knBoQ">https://t.co/cgfC6knBoQ</a> <a href="https://t.co/Fn2mwvYMAw">pic.twitter.com/Fn2mwvYMAw</a></p>— Owen Churchill (owenschurchill) May 5, 2017