Chinas's largest plane
China (BBN)-China announced on Monday that the country’s first home-grown large passenger aircraft- the 168-seater C919- will roll off the assembly line this year, billed as Beijing’s competition for aircraft manufacturers Boeing and Airbus.
China, which will join an elite group of nations in the production of large commercial jetliners, said the government-backed Commercial Aircraft Corporation (COMAC) had received 450 orders for the C919 from 18 customers, reports India Today.
The manufacturer also announced the first test flight will be held later this year.
The first orders will likely be delivered in three years’ time.
COMAC said on Monday that the aircraft’s vertical fin and rear fuselage had been delivered to the company from other domestic manufacturers.
The aircraft is now set to be assembled later this year, the official Xinhua news agency reported.
The C919 – billed as China’s competition to other narrow-bodied, medium-range commercial aircraft such as the Boeing 737 and Airbus 320/321 – will be produced in both 168 and 156-seat specifications.
China is likely to face a stiff challenge in penetrating markets dominated by America’s Boeing and France-based Airbus.
COMAC’s first project- the twin-engine ARJ-21- was beset by delays, receiving certification only one month ago, more than 12 years after the programme was first launched.
The ARJ-21 was a smaller twin-engine plane aimed at competing with Embraer and Bombardier aircraft.
One positive for COMAC is China’s booming domestic market, which will, at least for the medium-term, generate significant orders for the C919, which is likely to find more takers than the ARJ-21 considering its seating capacity and that it is in the medium-range category.
COMAC is also expected to start with seeking out emerging markets, offering a competitive price for the C919.
COMAC estimates that China will need at least 5,300 passenger and cargo aircraft in the next two decades, making up close to one-fifth of global demand.
With COMAC backed by the highest levels of the Chinese government, domestic airlines will, to begin with, support the C919 with the project set to take off this year.
BBN/SK/AD-23Feb15-5:10pm (BST)