Keep your eyes to the skies because the very first large commercial passenger airliner designed and built by China is set to make its maiden flight in the first half of this year.
The C919, manufactured by the state-owned Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China (COMAC) was unveiled to much fanfare in November 2015, casting itself as China’s answer to Boeing and Airbus. However, since then, precious little has been heard of the single-aisle, 168-seat aircraft which was supposed to make its first flight in 2016.
But delays are nothing particularly new for the C919. The project was initiated back in 2006 with over 200 companies and 36 universities nationwide lending a hand to contribute to the extensive research and development that went into designing the plane.
Earlier this week, Chinese state media announced that the finishing touches (and on-board system) had finally been put on the plane and tests confirmed that it was “strong enough to support future navigation.”
COMAC told the media last year that it had already received 570 orders for the C919 from 23 customers. Of course, these included orders from government-run companies like Air China, China Southern and China Eastern Airlines.
The hope is that someday the aircraft can become internationally competitive with the Boeing 737 and Airbus A320. Back in 2015, Qatar Airways Chief Executive Akbar Al Baker told CNBC that he would have “no hesitation at all in buying Chinese airplanes,” as long as they were made to the standard that he wanted.
“There is nothing wrong with buying Chinese. You use an iPhone, which is made in China. Designed by somebody else, but made in China. I think it would be good for this (Boeing/Airbus) monopoly to be broken,” he added.
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