China's homegrown jumbo passenger jet takes to the sky

China Shanghai Pudong International Airport Boeing 737 Airbus 320

China Shanghai Pudong International Airport Boeing 737 Airbus 320

The first test flight of the C919 airliner is scheduled to take place Friday from Shanghai Pudong International Airport, China's official news agency Xinhua reported Wednesday. Final ground tests only concluded a few weeks ago, much later than the original schedule of a first flight in 2014, and aircraft delivery in 2016.

The C919 will be able to carry up to 168 passengers.

In an earlier development, an evaluation committee consisting 63 aviation specialists from across China has agreed that the C919 - a twin-engine, narrow-body aircraft similar in size to the Airbus 320 and Boeing 737 series of jets - is technically ready for its maiden flight, the Shanghai-based aircraft maker Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China (COMAC) said.

Bao Pengli, deputy director of Comac's project management department, said Thursday the manufacturer planned to make two planes a year from now to 2019 to obtain proof of safe flight before any mass production is started.

The CFM Leap 1C-powered C919 is created to seat 158 passengers in a standard two-class configuration.

The successful flight moves China one step closer to transforming itself from a manufacturer of low-priced goods to a creator of advanced technology.

At the same time, China's aviation market is growing rapidly as a rising middle class travels more for leisure and business. Of the new planes, 75 percent are expected to be single-aisle.

According to its designers, the commercialization of the C919 will take two to three years before getting certification from the Civil Aviation Administration of China.

The plane is a key symbol of Beijing's soaring ambitions to enter the global aviation market.

Although the C919 is largely a Chinese indigenous design, a host of Western suppliers have contributed major components, including CFM International Leap-1C engines, Liebherr landing gear and Honeywell flight control and navigation systems.

It is engaged in a long-term process of catching up to Europe, the United States, and Russian Federation in commercial aircraft, he said, adding this is one step in that direction.

China finally launched its C919 airliner in Shanghai Friday after nearly three years of delays in a bid to take on the aviation duopoly of Boeing and Airbus. China Eastern Airlines 600115.SS is the launch customer for the plane, which COMAC says has 570 orders from 23 customers.

The safety certification of the new plane - which state media says will have a catalog price tag of around $50 million, less than half that of a Boeing 737 or Airbus A320 - could be among the biggest issues for the C919 internationally.

"If achieved, I think it will greatly enhance the accessible market of C919", he said.

China's first large jetliner, the C919, took its maiden flight on Friday.

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