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China's first giant passenger jet is slated for maiden test flight

11 May 2017

The flight lasted about 80 minutes.

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.

The jet's development is a key step on the path laid out by Chinese leaders to transform the country from the world's low-priced factory into a creator of profitable technology.

The C919 will operate in China for several years before seeking certificates from the FAA and EASA, aviation industry officials said.

However, despite the successful test flight, it still takes time for the C919 to take off in the market.

The C919's first test flight was pushed back at least twice since 2014 due to production issues, and a further 4,200 flight hours are planned in the test campaign. But the project was abandoned later.

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In 2007, plans to develop a Chinese-built large passenger jet were approved by the State Council. "The first aircraft rolled out on November 2nd, 2015". More than 200,000 technicians worked on the project.

"The significance is huge, it's the first ever large-frame aircraft made in China". It is an achievement in global cooperation, said Wu.

The C919 incorporates parts from over 30 global suppliers such as Honeywell International Inc.

But it relies on foreign-made technology for critical systems, including its engines, which are made by CFM International, a joint venture between General Electric's aviation subsidiary and France's Safran Aircraft Engines.

But Gao sees China's "rapid growth in the foreseeable 20 years".

"Seeing the C919 take off into the sky made me quite emotional", Wang Mingfeng, a witness to the test flight, told

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Michel Merluzeau, director of Aerospace & Defence Market Analysis for AirInsightResearch in Seattle, was also impressed by the great efforts made by the Chinese government in accelerating innovation. "A total of 570 orders have been obtained from 23 customers".

But this is only the very first step.

"The aircraft requires Western certification to compete directly with Airbus and Boeing in major markets".

Most of the demand is coming from state-owned Chinese airlines, and the plane will initially target the domestic market, which is set to displace the United States as the world's biggest by around 2024, the International Air Transport Association predicts.

The C919 will be a strong competitor in this field as it is economical and comfortable, according to a research note from Guosen Securities. State broadcaster CCTV sent out live footage from the plane, which had no passenger seats installed for the maiden flight.

While delayed since a year ago, the flight is the latest sign of China's growing ambition and technical skill, coming one week after the country launched its first domestically made aircraft carrier and docked a cargo spacecraft with an orbiting space lab.

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China's first giant passenger jet is slated for maiden test flight