Chinese-Made Passenger Jet Takes Off For Its First Test Flight

The jet soon disappeared into the clouds with its skeleton crew of five pilots and engineers on board.

With 158 to 174 seats, the twin-engine, single-aisle aircraft will be used for medium-haul commercial flights.

"The significance is huge, it's the first ever large-frame aircraft made in China", said Xiong Yuexi, a professor and plane design expert at Beihang University in Beijing.

Comac's C919 narrowbody airliner made its debut flight from China's Shanghai Pudong International Airport on Friday, ending a year-and-a-half wait since its factory rollout in November 2015.

After the flight, which lasted about 79 minutes at an altitude of 3,000 meters and an average speed of 300 km/h, the plane returned to Shanghai Pudong International Airport, from which it had taken off at 2 pm. The country's state-owned airlines first signed up to buy the jet in 2010, and it was originally supposed to enter service in 2016.

The plane called C919 is thought to pose a major challenge to Boeing 737 and Airbus A320.

To date, COMAC has received 570 orders from 23 customers for the Chinese trunkliner.

Other suppliers include Honeywell, Rockwell Collins, United Technologies' subsidiary Goodrich and a unit of Parker-Hannifin Corporation.

China's homegrown large passenger plane C919 takes off on its maiden flight in Shanghai, east China, May 5, 2017.

The country was attempting to launch a commercially viable passenger jet since as far back as the 1970s, when Chairman Mao failed to find success in the endeavour.

With the flight, the official Xinhua News Agency said China had become "one of the world's top makers of jumbo aircraft", becoming the fourth large jet producer after the U.S., Europe and Russian Federation. It made its maiden passenger flight in June previous year.

Boeing forecasts that an annual 6 percent growth in China's air passenger traffic over the next two decades will create demand for 6,810 new planes worth a total of $1 trillion - the first trillion-dollar aviation market in its forecast.

China - which has long had a goal of breaking into the Western-dominated aircraft market - on Friday tested its first large passenger jetliner. Chinese media said the plane will cost around $50 mln, significantly less then a Boeing 737 or Airbus 320, its closest equivalents.

"Basically, they can deliver jets if they're willing to lose a lot of money", Richard Aboulafia, vice president at Teal Group Corp., a US -based aerospace intelligence company. Without their certification, China would only be able to sell the jet to a handful of countries that accept its certification standards.

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.

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