China’s home-grown C919 passenger jet completed its long-delayed maiden flight on Friday, a major first step for Beijing as it looks to raise its profile in the global aviation market and boost high-tech manufacturing at home.
Under overcast skies, the white, green and blue aircraft, with “C919” emblazoned on its tail, touched down at Shanghai’s international airport after an 80-minutes flight to cheers from thousands of dignitaries, aviation workers and enthusiasts.
The jet is a symbol of China’s ambitions to muscle into a global jet market estimated to be worth $2 trillion over the next two decades, as well as of Beijing’s broader “Made in China 2025” plan to spur home-made products, from medicines to robots.
“Seeing the C919 take off into the sky made me quite emotional. This is a moment we have waited to see for a very long time,” Wang Mingfeng, 42, who witnessed the maiden flight at the Shanghai airport, told Reuters.
“I believe that in the not too distant future, we will be neck-and-neck with Boeing and Airbus,” Mingfeng added.
At the moment, though, Boeing (BA.N) and Airbus (AIR.PA) remain far ahead in terms of sales, technical know-how and order books. And the C919, whose test flight was pushed back at least twice since 2014 due to production issues, may need years of tests to get certified in China, as well as in the United States and Europe.
On Friday, the C919 flew north over the Yangtze River delta, carried out manoeuvres and then returned south along the coast before landing, according to aircraft tracker Flightradar24. State media said the plane flew at around 3,000 meters and at speeds of 290-300 kilometers (180-186 miles) per hour.
The crew of five pilots and engineers, all wearing orange jump suits and aviators, were applauded as they disembarked. The plane, which can carry 158-168 passengers, had no passenger seats installed for the maiden flight.
A letter from China’s ministerial cabinet, read out after the plane landed, said the successful flight marked a “major breakthrough” and milestone for China’s passenger jet industry. The industry ministry said in a statement the flight went smoothly and that all the systems functioned properly.
The C919, made by state-owned Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China (COMAC) [CMAFC.UL], relies on overseas technology from firms including General Electric (GE.N), France’s Safran (SAF.PA), Honeywell International Inc (HON.N) and United Technologies Corp (UTX.N) subsidiary Goodrich.
China Eastern Airlines (600115.SS) is the launch customer for the plane, which COMAC says has 570 orders from 23 customers.
Conceived in 2008, China wants the C919 to eventually take market share from Boeing and Airbus in the lucrative narrow-body market which accounts for more than 50 per cent of the aircraft in service worldwide. “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. However, the jet likely faces a lengthy journey from first flight to commercial usage.
China’s first home-made jet, the regional ARJ-21, received its type certification in December 2014, six years after its first flight and more than 12 years after it was conceived. It made its maiden passenger flight in June last year.
Then there is also the daunting task of selling the jet in a global market dominated by Boeing and Airbus.
“Aviation is a complex market and you need experience over a long time. Boeing has 100 years, Airbus has over 40 years,” said Sinolink Securities analyst Si Jingzhe, adding COMAC still lagged far behind in terms of supply chain know-how.
China is aware the path won’t be easy. On a media visit on Thursday to COMAC’s C919 assembly plant less than 10 kilometers from the airport, large red banners could be seen in giant hangars calling for long-term “hardship”, “dedication” and “struggle” to meet the firm’s goals.
China is pushing for recognition globally of its certification by European and U.S. regulators as without their certification, it would only be able to sell the jet to a handful of countries that accept its certification standards.
But Beijing is already looking beyond the C919, with plans to develop a wide-body long-haul jet with Russia. In November COMAC and its partner United Aircraft Corp said they have started the hunt to find suppliers.
- Monarch Seeks Support To Move Kingdom Forward
- Lagos Assembly Moves To Reform Electric Power Sector
- Salesgirl Docked For Stealing N108,500 Worth Of Phones, Cash
- Ogun Governor-elect Abiodun Vows To Prioritise Rule Of Law, Accountability
- Forum of States Commissioners of Finance Congratulates NGF New Leadership
Examining Implementation Of Child Rights Convention
By November 20th this year, the convention on the rights of the child (CRC), will be 30 years since it...
Chronicling 8th Senate’s Efforts In Education Sector
As the current Senate winds down in a matter of days, BODE GBADEBO writes on the legislative interventions of the...
Awaiting S’Court Verdict On Zamfara APC
The long standing legal battle over the conduct of APC primaries or otherwise in Zamfara State will end tomorrow as...
Nigeria To Halt N360bn Capital Flight In Aviation Sector
A new internationally licensed Maintenance Repair and Overhaul (MRO) that will end over N360 billion capital flight has been launched...
We Must Organise Mining Sector For Optimal Results– Mayere
Lawal Mayere is a retired permanent secretary in Kaduna State.He served in the ministries of land, works, solid minerals ,...
Combating Desertification In Sahel, Horn Of Africa
CHIKA OKEKE examines attempts by governments and stakeholders in the African region to protect its landmass from mind boggling desertification....
COVER STORIES18 hours ago
Protests As Bulkachuwa Quits Presidential Election Tribunal
FEATURES16 hours ago
Awaiting S’Court Verdict On Zamfara APC
FEATURED18 hours ago
Why I Didn’t Change My Cabinet – PMB
COLUMNS18 hours ago
Military Promotion, Retirement And Religious Politics
AGRICULTURE8 hours ago
Kano Govt. Secures $95m Agriculture Loan
EDITORIAL18 hours ago
Very Important Vulture
Others16 hours ago
INEC Withdraws 2 Certificates Of Return In Kaduna
COVER STORIES19 hours ago
WHO Declares Algeria, Argentina Malaria-free