For the first time in aviation history, the maiden flight of a major aircraft was broadcast live on TV and the internet from the flight deck of the plane, demonstrating China’s huge degree of confidence in its C919 passenger jet. (Longshi photo via Twitter)
Around 3,000 people witnessed the historic moment of the twin-engine, single-aisle aircraft's debut.
The C919 project was launched in 2006. Two years later, the C919 maker Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China (COMAC) was established in Shanghai, considering the city's technology advantage in aviation industry and the maturity of the market.
Before the flight, the C919 has passed a series of strict tests since rolling off the assembly line in November 2015. To date, COMAC has received 570 orders from 23 clients for the C919.
Chinese Rival to Boeing 737 and Airbus A320 Takes to the Air for the First Time (excerpt)
In a first for a test flight, a large audience in China and worldwide was able to follow the first flight live on TV and the internet, broadcast from the flight deck of the plane.
The audience could listen to the pilot’s radio communications with the control center while watching a video broadcast that showed on a split screen the view over the pilot’s right shoulder and another outside view of the jet shot through a window of a chase plane.
The C919, built by the Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China (COMAC), is roughly the size of the Boeing 737 MAX 8 and the Airbus A320neo.
Yet western experts believe it won’t put much of a dent in the market share of the dominant U.S. and European players.
Launched nine years ago and now running three years late, the C919 jet won’t enter service until 2019 or 2020.
The Airbus neo is already in service and has won more than 5,000 orders. And the Boeing MAX, which is due to enter service later this month with Malaysian carrier Malindo Air, has just over 3,700 orders.
Boeing leaders have said for years that it’s the next generation of Chinese commercial jets after the C919 that will offer real competition, likely around 2030.
Bainbridge Island-based aviation consulting firm Leeham.net said this week that COMAC is targeting a top production rate of no more than seven jets per month well into the next decade.
Boeing plans to churn out 57 of its 737s per month by 2019 and Airbus plans to go to 60 of its A320s per month.
So, the C919 “isn’t going to be much of a threat to Airbus or Boeing,” Leeham’s analysts concluded.
Still, the C919 will inevitably sell in China under government fiat, and it may also find buyers among small southeast Asian and African nations dependent on China.
Every one that sells means one less 737 or A320 sale, Leeham said. (end of excerpt)
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