The Comac 919 successfully completed its first test flight from Shanghai International Airport on May 5th. The twin-engined jet took off at 2pm local time. It returned to land safely 80 minutes later, after performing manouevres over the Yangstze River.
The passenger jet’s successful maiden flight marks a milestone for the Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China (COMAC). It also signals a first step on the ladder for the Shanghai-based manufacturer’s entry into the global jet market, estimated to be worth $2 trillion over the next twenty years.
Experts predict that China will be the world’s largest market for airplanes by 2024, requiring 6,800 new planes over the next two decades to satisfy its needs.
The "C" in the aircraft's name stands for both China and COMAC, while 9 symbolizes "forever" in Chinese culture, and 19 represents the 190 seats at maximum capacity. ‘With a standard range of 4,075 km, the narrow-body jet is comparable with updated Airbus 320 and Boeing's new generation 737,' declares Chinese state media.
But the young Chinese manufacturer still has some catching up to do. Those two aircraft have some 80 years’ experience between them – 30 years for the A320 and 50 years for the Boeing 737. Comac also relies on international technology from firms such as General Electric, Safran and Honeywell International.
The C919’s first test flight was pushed back at least twice since 2014 due to production issues, and a further 4,200 flight hours are planned in the test campaign. The jet may yet have to undergo years of tests to get certified in China, not to mention the US and Europe. The mid-haul jet, was due to enter into service next year with China Eastern Airlines, but the aircraft manufacturer is now suggesting first delivery in 2020.