China’s homegrown large passenger plane, the C919, took to the sky on last week, making China the fourth jumbo jet producer after the United States, West Europe and Russia.
It also marks a milestone for the Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China (COMAC), the Shanghai-based manufacturer of the C919.
The twin-engine plane departed from Shanghai Pudong International Airport on Friday with five crew members on board but no passengers.
The 80-minute flight was greeted with applause by more than 1,000 spectators on the tarmac, including Vice Premier Ma Kai and Shanghai Party chief Han Zheng.
The “C” in the aircraft’s name stands for both China and COMAC, while 9 symbolizes “forever” in Chinese culture, and 19 represents the 190 seats at maximum capacity.
“The maiden flight was exciting,” said Wu Guanghui, C919’s chief designer, adding that it was a major breakthrough in China’s civil aviation history, as well as the start of a new era of advanced manufacturing in the country.
With a standard range of 4,075 kilometers, the narrow-body jet is comparable with updated Airbus 320 and Boeing’s new generation 737, signaling the country’s entry into the global aviation market.
China began to develop its own jumbo passenger jets in the 1970s and the first one, the Y-10, had a successful test flight in 1980. But the project was abandoned later.
In 2007, the State Council approved plans to develop a large passenger jet. In November 2015, the first C919 jet rolled off the assembly line.
The aircraft was given the go-ahead in April to begin a series of high-speed taxiing tests, the final step before its maiden flight. More than 200,000 technicians worked on the project.
The jet was designed and produced in China and made with resources from around the world. It is an achievement in global cooperation, said Wu.
The C919 incorporates parts from over 30 global suppliers such as Honeywell International Inc.
Its engines were made by a joint venture between General Electric and Safran Aircraft Engines.