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COMAC's C919 plane prepares for takeoff

Editor: Li Kun 丨CCTV.com

11-04-2015 15:56 BJT

By Tom McGregor, CNTV Commentator

On Monday, over 4,000 guests - government officials, business representatives and reporters - arrived at a hangar near Shanghai's Pudong International Airport to witness the unveiling of China’s first manufactured jumbo jet, the C919.

State-owned Commercial Aircraft Corp. Of China (COMAC) introduced its single-aisle, twin-engine aircraft that seats up to 168 passengers with a flight range up to 5,555km. C919 development started in 2008.

China’s first manufactured jumbo jet C919

Next year, COMAC will embark on three years of flight testing. The aircraft will be ready for regular service for airlines, scheduled for 2019. The manufacturer has received orders from 21 customers to purchase 517 aircraft, mostly from Chinese carriers and US-based GE Capital Aviation Services.

"The rollout of the first C919 aircraft marks a significant milestone in the development of China's first indegenous aircraft," Japan Today quotes COMAC Chairman Jin Zhuanglong as saying.

Challenging Boeing and Airbus

The top players in the global  aviation manufacturing industry are US-based Boeing and France-based Airbus. COMAC believes its C919, as well as the set-to-be-introduced wide-body C929 passenger plane can help them compete successfully against leading rivals.

"China offers a terrific market, superb engineering talent and reasonably low costs," the Charlotte News & Observer quotes Richard Aboulafia, vice president for analysis of Teal Group Corp., an industry consultant, as saying. "Developing a national aircraft industry makes a lot of sense."

Nevertheless, COMAC will continue to face stiff competition from its US-based competitor. Last month, Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Boeing's plant in Seattle to sign a deal on behalf of Chinese airlines carriers to buy 300 planes, valued at $US38bn.

C919s’ foreign/domestic components

COMAC has built a ‘Made in China’ jumbo jet, but the nation's aviation technology remains a work in progress. TravelPulse Website reports that many components were manufactured in France, Germany and the US, such as the electrical system and landing gears coming from US-based Honeywell.

The biggest components, including the core processing and display system, were supplied via a joint venture between GE Aviation Systems and AVIC, state-owned Chinese aircraft contractor.

The other main suppliers were US-based Rockwell Collins and US-based Hamilton Sustrand. ‘Leap’ engines were produced from a joint venture between France-based Safran and GE. However, there's no shame for COMAC to contract foreign suppliers.

"To catch up with Boeing and Airbus is the ideal scenario, but it will take time," said Zhang Shiguang, civil aviation expert from Beijing’s Beihang University. "Designing large aircraft is a huge project ...We also need to show perseverance. Progress will not come easily."

China's soaring aviation demand

China is the 2nd busiest commercial air travel market behind the US, and may likely reach the top spot in the next decade.

Boeing had published a report saying, "By 2034, Chinese airlines are expected to purchase 4,630 new single-aisle planes, worth $US490bn, plus 1,500 new wide-body airplanes, worth $US450bn."

COMAC hopes to secure orders for 2,000 C919s in the next 20 years and has signed a joint venture deal with Russian-based United Aircraft Corp to manufacture wide-body C929 aircraft.

Also look to see a substantial rise in China’s aircraft leasing sector. China's Ping'an Leasing has signed a deal to purchase 50 C919s.

The company's press release said, "Signing a purchase agreement with (COMAC) was an important strategic measure ... to promote the development of the aircraft leasing business."

Flying with ambition

COMAC harbors major dreams to build China-made passenger planes that can rival other aircraft manufacturing giants. The company should emphasize quality and safety as their main priorities; and if so China’s aircraft industry can boost its reputation and profits worldwide.



( The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Panview or CCTV.com. )



Panview offers a new window of understanding the world as well as China through the views, opinions, and analysis of experts. We also welcome outside submissions, so feel free to send in your own editorials to "globalopinion@vip.cntv.cn" for consideration.

Panview offers an alternative angle on China and the rest of the world through the analyses and opinions of experts. We also welcome outside submissions, so feel free to send in your own editorials to "globalopinion@vip.cntv.cn" for consideration.

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