China’s first homegrown passenger plane is to take to the skies before July this year, according to state media.
A China state-owned manufacturer first unveiled the C919 in November 2015, leaving analysts wondering whether it can compete with major manufacturers such as Airbus and Boeing.
The single-aisle aircraft, which can seat 168 passengers, has now installed its on-board system and undertaken a series of load tests.
The People’s Daily Online said Tuesday that test results confirm “that the framework of the jetliner is strong enough to support future navigation.”
The plane, produced by the state-owned Commercial Aircraft Corp of China (COMAC), was originally scheduled to make its debut journey in 2015, but the date was pushed back to satisfy additional testing.
COMAC designed the C919 plane to compete with other single aisle jets such as the Airbus 320 and Boeing’s 737.
In 2015 Qatar Airways Chief Executive Akbar Al Baker said that he would have “no hesitation at all in buying Chinese airplanes,” as long as they were made to the standard that he wanted.
“There is nothing wrong with buying Chinese. You use an iPhone, which is made in China. Designed by somebody else, but made in China. I think it would be good for this (Boeing/Airbus) monopoly to be broken,” Al Baker told CNBC at the Dubai Airshow.
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The ‘iron bird’ test platform, a plane-like fuselage simulator, for the C919
The state manufacturer told media in November 2016 it has received 570 orders for the C919 from 23 customers, including government run firms Air China, China Southern and Shanghai-based China Eastern Airlines.
Chinese demand for new airplanes is proving a key battleground for passenger plane makers. Airbus estimated in its 2016-2035 forecast that the Chinese airlines will need nearly 6,000 new planes worth US$945 billion over the next two decades.
COMAC has also developed a smaller regional jet, the ARJ21, which took to the skies in June 2016.