China delivered the first of its domestically produced commercial aircraft on Friday as it hopes to one day challenge the dominance of Boeing and Airbus, state media reported.
The C919 narrowbody jet, manufactured by the state-run Commercial Aircraft Corp of China (COMAC), was handed over to China Eastern Airlines in a ceremony at an airport in Shanghai.
The plane had the words "the world's first C919" printed on its side in both Chinese and English.
The state-run Xinhua news agency reported that the aircraft made its maiden flight from Shanghai Pudong International Airport to Shanghai Hongqiao International Airport — a 15-minute journey — as part of the delivery process.
What does the future hold for the C919?
The jet has 164 seats and rivals the Airbus A320 and Boeing 737 Max single-aisle models. The plane was certified for safe operations in September.
Its first route is set to be between Shanghai and Beijing, starting early next year, according to Xinhua. The airline is expecting to receive the remaining four aircraft it has ordered from COMAC over the next two years.
China's push for homegrown aircraft manufacturing comes amid trade and technology conflicts with the US over the last few years.
However, production is reliant on foreign-sourced parts — although homegrown alternatives are in the works — and the goal of producing around 25 C919s by 2030 pales in comparison to the production rate of its larger Western rivals.
Boeing and Airbus in China
The number of known orders of C919s is over 1,100 with COMAC announcing orders for 300 of the aircraft just last month.
Earlier in the year, Beijing signed a deal with the European Airbus company to acquire jets worth $17 billion (€16.08 billion). The company also began producing A321 models at a facility in the northeastern city of Tianjin last month.
The US-based Boeing is having a harder time in the country following two fatal crashes that led authorities to ground all 737 Max models since 2019.
The company said in July that it may get approval for further deliveries but US-China tensions and a further deadly crash involving a Boeing 737-800 have hampered progress.
ab/msh (AFP, Reuters)