China's New Airliner Sets Sights on Boeing and Airbus

The C919, made by state-owned Commercial Aircraft Corp. of China Ltd., or Comac, took off from Pudong International Airport in Shanghai.

Commercial Aircraft Corp. of China, the state-owned company behind the plane, said 21 customers had placed orders for more than 500 planes by the end of 2016, and it expected sales to exceed 2,000, state media said.

The official Xinhua News Agency said China had become "one of the world's top makers of jumbo aircraft", behind the US, Europe and Russian Federation, while the event was live broadcast on state-owned channel CGTN.

The twin-engine plane had five crew members and no passengers.

Thousands of guests cheered as the plane left the runway in Pudong International Airport on Friday, with top officials, representatives of the Chinese state-owned aircraft maker Comac, and business partners attending the event.

Analysts, however, say the C919 will lag technologically behind improved versions of the A320 and 737 which will enter service in the next two years.

Chinese airlines are expected drive demand over the next two decades, buying almost 7,000 planes - mostly from Boeing and Airbus.

The state company formed a 50:50 partnership past year with Russian counterpart United Aircraft Corp to develop a longer-haul passenger plane, with the companies earmarking a maiden flight in 2022, with deliveries beginning as early as 2025.

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The development of the C919, whose name is pronounced similar to the Chinese world for "everlasting", has been endorsed by the country's leadership, including President Xi Jingping.

The new Chinese made airplane is meant to compete with Boeing's (NYSE: BA) 737 and the Airbus 320.

That smaller jet is a rival to aircraft made by Bombardier Inc. of Canada and Brazil's Embraer SA.

In this November 2, 2015 photo, workers roll out the first C919 jet aircraft manufactured at the state-owned Commercial Aircraft Corp. of China Ltd. (COMAC) in Shanghai.

China's first large passenger jet just completed its maiden flight today (May 5), but it will have to wait at least three years before it carries actual passengers. However, it also relied on overseas companies like General Electric and Honeywell for critical parts, including the jet's engines and avionics systems.

Boeing estimates that the country will need a trillion dollars worth of new airplanes over the next two decades, including more than 5,100 of the same size as the C919.

By 2035, COMAC aims to take a third of the Chinese narrowbody market and a fifth of the global market. "And we welcome competition, which is good for the development of the industry". (Tianjin lies on the coast of north-east China.) Boeing has signed an agreement with, perhaps ironically, Comac, to set up an Aircraft Completion Centre for the 737, in the city of Zhoushan, south of Shanghai.

"The world market is so complex and competitive that it is hard to hope that it will be possible to break into it immediately with a product that will beat all others and drive out all competitors", Kashin said, echoing Royce's remarks.

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