China’s first truly modern indigenous airliner, the Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China (COMAC) C919, successfully completed its maiden flight from Shanghai on May 5. The white, green and bluepainted single-aisle airliner, B-001A (c/n 101), successfully landed back after a onehour, 18-minute flight.
The flight was a major step for China’s growing ambitions in the civil aviation sector; the type will compete with Airbus’s A320 and Boeing’s 737. State media also trumpeted the flight as a significant testimony to the country’s industrial capabilities.
According to several reports on the state news channel CCTV, FlightRadar24.com tracking and live footage from the aircraft, the prototype was piloted by a crew of five (led by test pilot Cai Jun) while flying over the Yangtze River estuary and heading due north. The toughest part of flight testing and certifications lies ahead and it will be interesting to observe if, when and how far China can break into the established Airbus-Boeing-duopoly. China Eastern Airlines is the launch customer and COMAC says it has secured 566 orders (including firm orders, agreements and options) from 23 customers; most of them Chinese airlines.
COMAC however is also already planning beyond the C919, with plans to develop a long-range widebody airliner together with Russia’s United Aircraft Corporation designated the C929.