China's first large passenger jet has successfully taken to the skies and then landed again.
In this Thursday, May 4, 2017 photo, a worker walks past a COMAC C919 aircraft in an airplane hangar in Shanghai.
Some 40 domestic and worldwide flights were canceled and over 30 others were delayed at the Pudong airport to give way to the test flying around 2pm. If winning the certificates and creating service networks takes too long, COMAC may lose sales opportunities while the quality of rival planes advances.
Comac itself functions as the main vehicle in implementing large passenger aircraft programs in China.
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.
"There's a lot riding on the C919, " said Xu Yongling, a military test pilot and a member of the Beijing-based Chinese Society of Aeronautics and Astronautics. Chinese media report that a C919 will cost some $50-million, said to be less than half the price of an Airbus A320 or a Boeing 737. Take the engine, produced by a GE joint venture with France's Safran called CFM.
The test flight of the plane follows China's launch last month of its first domestically built aircraft carrier. But the project was abandoned later.
The next step in Comac's evolution as an aircraft manufacturer is now likely to be the development of China's first long-haul, wide-bodied jet. The country first announced plans to build the plane in 2008, but production issues repeatedly pushed the flight back. More than 200,000 technicians worked on the project.
487 million: That's the number of domestic and worldwide journeys made a year ago in China, according to data from the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC). "And we welcome competition, which is good for the development of the industry".
But Gao sees China's "rapid growth in the foreseeable 20 years". "For Honeywell, which has invested heavily in China's aviation industry, we are picking the victor", said Steven Lien, president of Honeywell Aerospace Asia Pacific. By the time of its rollout, schedules called for first flight in the second quarter of 2016 but various delays in final systems installation and ground testing forced a further one-year wait.
"The Chinese government is interested in establishing independence and self-sufficiency in all aspects of aviation", Douglas Royce, an aerospace expert at Forecast International, an aerospace market research firm, told Xinhua. But it still has a long way to go before it's carrying passengers and competing with its US and European competitors.
Comac says it has 570 orders from 23 domestic and foreign customers. It is forming a joint venture with Russia's United Aircraft Corp.to develop a twin-aisle jet that can fly as far as 7,450 miles -- roughly the distance between Beijing and NY -- and can seat 280 people.
Comac has applied for Type Certification for the C919 from both the Civil Aviation Administration of China and the European Aviation Safety Agency.
Foreign-made parts for the Chinese jetliner include landing gear developed by the German Liebherr-Aerospace as well as onboard maintenance and flight data recording equipment manufactured by the American corporation General Electric.