STORY: China’s home-grown passenger plane completed its first commercial flight on Sunday (May 28)....
....marking a milestone in the country’s effort to become more self-reliant.
The narrow-body jet is fifteen years in the making,
the product of the state-backed company COMAC's aim to compete with Airbus and Boeing.
President Xi Jinping hailed the project as a triumph of Chinese innovation.
Some of the plane’s first passengers were equally enthused.
[LV Boyuan / Aviation enthusiast and student]
"I'm feeling very emotional. Actually, when I heard about C919's maiden flight, I spent the whole week paying attention to everything about this development. (I was) paying attention to when tickets go on sale, and then tried and buy tickets from the moment they were released. "
The plane completed a two-hour flight from Shanghai to Beijing with China Eastern Airlines, with a return scheduled later in the day Sunday and longer flights on the horizon.
A COMAC official recently said the company has won over 1,200 plane orders from at least 32 customers so far, the majority of which are reportedly based in China.
Chinese media reported the planemaker expects annual production to reach 150 jets within five years.
Although assembled in China, the plane relies heavily on components such as engines and avionics from Western firms.
Neither European nor U.S. regulators have certified the aircraft yet. Until they do, key international markets will remain closed to the C919.
Given the popularity of COMAC’s previous planes with Indonesian airlines, experts estimate the C919’s international future lies mainly in the developing world.