China’s third home-made passenger plane C919 completes first flight
28th December 2018

China’s third home-made passenger plane C919 completes first flight as part of Beijing’s trillion-dollar plan to take on western aircraft firms

  • The plane took to the skies today at the Shanghai Pudong International Airport
  • China is building three other C919s which are set to have first flight next year 
  • The C919 is China’s first step toward independence from Boeing and Airbus 
  • The country plans to replace its 6,800 western aircraft at a cost of $1 trillion

China’s third home-made passenger plane completed its maiden flight today as the country moves one step closer to its trillion-dollar aviation dreams.

The Chinese authorities are planning to replace all 6,000 to 6,800 of its western aircraft at a cost of around $1 trillion (£788 billion), and most of the replacements are expected to be the single-aisle made-in-China jet.

Commercial Aircraft Corp of China (COMAC), a Chinese state-owned aviation manufacturer based in Shanghai, spent 11 years and $6.5 billion (£5 billion) developing C919, which has been lauded as China’s answer to the Boeing 737 and Airbus 320.

The third prototype of China’s home-built passenger jet C919 takes off during its first test flight from the fourth runway at Shanghai Pudong International Airport around noon today

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COMAC is currently assembling three other C919 planes and all of them are expected to complete their first flights next year. It is also developing a wide-body plane, the C929, in cooperation with Russia’s United Aircraft Corp.

The third narrow-body, twin-engine C919 successfully landed at the Shanghai Pudong International Airport at 12:45pm today after flying for 98 minutes, according to a social media statement from COMAC.   

The first two C919s took to the skies for the first time on May 5 and December 17 last year respectively. Both of them are undergoing further flight tests in order to obtain flying certification.

Sporting white, blue and green livery, the third C919 was manned by pilots Xu Yuanzheng and Zhang Jianwei. 

The first-ever C919 is unveiled in Shanghai on November 2, 2015. The single-aisle, made-in-China jet has been lauded as Beijing’s answer to the Boeing 737 and Airbus 320

The narrow-body, twin-engine airliner is built by Commercial Aircraft Corp of China (COMAC), a Chinese state-owned aviation manufacturer based in Shanghai 

It took off at 11:07am from the fourth runway of the Shanghai Pudong International Airport. It also carried one observer and two engineers on board. 

A comparison of the C919 with similar models offered by Boeing and Airbus. Estimates predict that China’s new model is significantly cheaper than 737 and A320

COMAC said the plane completed 21 test points during the flight. It is expected to undergo further tests in Xi’an after today’s flight.

Footage of the flight was released by Chinese state broadcaster China Central Television Station. 

COMAC is yet to reveal more details of the maiden flight, such as the plane’s height or speed. In May last year, the first C919 reached 10,000 feet with a maximum speed of 170 knots (196 miles per hour or 315 kph) during its maiden flight.

The C919 flight is Beijing’s first step toward independence from Boeing and Airbus. 

China is a massive battleground for Boeing and Airbus, with the country’s air travel market expected to surpass the United States by 2024, according to the International Air Transport Association. 

The aircraft has a flight range of up to 3,451 miles (5,555 kilometres), which means it can fly non-stop from Shanghai to Jakarta or from Paris to Montreal. 

It can fit 158 to 168 seats. In comparison, different models of Boeing 737 can seat 85 to 215 passengers; while an A320 can accommodate 100 to 240 people.

COMAC is yet to release the price tag of the jet, but a report by China National Radio predicted that C919 was likely to be sold at £33 million ($43 million), much cheaper than a Boeing 737 or an Airbus 320 which each cost around £62 million ($80 million) and £77 million ($100 million) respectively.  

International Air Transport Association estimated that 927 million people would travel to or from China by air in 2025 – compared to the 904 million passengers to and from the United States.

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