China-made jet takes off in maiden flight
SHANGHAI: China's home-grown C919 passenger jet took to the skies in Shanghai for its long-delayed maiden test flight yesterday in a major step for Beijing as it looks to boost its profile in the global aviation market.
The narrow-body aircraft, which will compete with Boeing's 737 and the Airbus A320, is a key symbol of China's ambitions to muscle into a global jet market estimated to be worth US$2 trillion (S$2.8 trillion) over the next 20 years.
Made by the state-owned Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China (Comac), the C919's test flight had been delayed at least twice since 2014 due to production issues.
"The significance is huge - it is the first ever large-frame aircraft made in China," Mr Xiong Yuexi, a professor and plane design expert at Beihang University in Beijing, told Reuters earlier.
"It has a great impact for the Chinese people and the domestic market."
But the jet likely faces a lengthy journey from the first flight to commercial usage.
There is also the daunting task of selling the jet in a global market dominated by Boeing and Airbus.
"Aviation is a complex market, and you need experience over a long time. Boeing has 100 years, and Airbus has over 40 years," said Sinolink Securities analyst Si Jingzhe.
He added that Comac still lags far behind in terms of supply chain know-how. - REUTERS