China's passenger jet faces long road from test flight to commercial use

The aircraft's maker, state-owned Commercial Aircraft Corp. of China Ltd., or Comac, will seek certification from China's civil aviation authority and foreign regulators before making any deliveries.

The narrow-body of the first Chinese-made passenger jet - white with green and blue stripes with "C919" emblazoned on its tail - soared over Pudong global airport in the commercial hub Shanghai as a crowd of thousands cheered.

The C919 - whose key parts include engines and avionics systems provided by 15 worldwide companies such as General Electric and Honeywell - has received 570 orders from 23 foreign and domestic customers, including China's national carrier Air China and leasing company GE Capital Aviation Service. China's first large homemade passenger jetliner is due to make its maiden flight from Shanghai later Friday, May 5, 2017.

With China's aviation market growing rapidly as a rising middle class travels more for leisure and business, the C919 aircraft is also expected to eventually take market share from Boeing and Airbus in the lucrative narrow-body market, which accounts for more than 50 percent of the aircraft in service worldwide.

China's homegrown large passenger plane C919 makes its maiden flight in Shanghai, east China, on May 5.

China has already been in talks with the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to put C919 in foreign market.

"The significance is huge, it's the first ever large-frame aircraft made in China", said Xiong Yuexi, a professor and plane design expert at Beihang University in Beijing. "Our second C919 is assembling now and is scheduled to be off the assembly line this year", COMAC test flights engineering director You Liyan told local press.

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But aviation analysts said Shanghai-based COMAC has a long journey ahead before it can challenge the lock held on the market by Boeing and Airbus.

The C919 carrying out a ground test at Shanghai Pudong International Airport in April.

Besides the C919, China is also working with Russian Federation to develop a long-haul wide-bodied jet called the C929. The "C" in the aircraft's name stands for both China and COMAC (Commercial Aircraft Corp of China), the number 9 is a symbol for "everlasting", while the 19 represents the aircraft's maximum seat capacity of 190.

Even if the C919 ends up being a superior aircraft, it will still take years for many Western airlines to consider adding the type to their fleets, Royce noted.

The long-delayed maiden flight was watched by a large crowd that included dignitaries and aviation workers.

Airbus and Boeing estimate that Chinese airlines will need between 6,000-6,800 aircraft at a total price of around $1 trillion.

It will therefore come as no surprise that of the 23 carriers to express an interest in the plane, just two are from beyond China and its territories. However, it also relied on overseas companies like General Electric and Honeywell for critical parts, including the jet's engines and avionics systems.

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