The C919, China’s first giant passenger jet that has been designed and built domestically is set to make its maiden test flight on Friday. Set to enter service two or three years from now, the aircraft which was first unveiled close to a decade ago is running behind schedule. The first test flight had originally been scheduled for 2014 and 2016 had been set as the year when the first aircraft delivery would be made.
According to Xinhua, the official news agency in China, the first test flight of the C919 will be at the Shanghai Pudong International Airport. With the C919 possessing a range of 2,532 miles or 4,075 kilometers, it is just about the size of the Airbus A320 Neo or Boeing’s 737 Max 8.
Manufactured by COMAC – Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China, by 2016 the C919 had already received orders of over 500 jets from 21 customers. But despite being Chinese, the C919 has several of its key components made abroad. This includes the engine which is manufactured by CFM International. CFM is jointly owned by Safran of France and U.S.-based General Electric.
The most populous country in the world is engaged in efforts to become a significant player in the global aviation sector. Xi Jinping, the Chinese president, has indicated that this is a strategic goal for the country and the development and manufacturing of both planes and engines at a domestic level has been identified as a key goal.
Largest aviation market of the future
By 2024 it is expected that the largest aviation market in the world will be China. Currently, this position is occupied by the United States. With this growth in the aviation sector, there will be increased demand for additional planes as the number of flyers will have risen and the number of routes will also have been increased. Estimates put the number of additional jets that will have to be added in the next ten years to close to 7,000, with a combined worth of $1 trillion.
The C919 is not COMAC’s first plane though as the plane maker already has the ARJ 21 which entered service in 2016. The ARJ 21 seats 90 passengers but only flies in China as it is yet to get certification from the Federal Aviation Administration of the United States. COMAC is also partnering with Russia in development of the C929, a long-haul wide-bodied plane.