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China unveils prototype of first homegrown passenger jet

02 November 2015

China today unveiled a prototype of its first homegrown passenger jet that it expects to compete with airliners from Boeing Co and Airbus Group SE.
China unveils prototype of first homegrown passenger jet
The plane's first flight is scheduled for sometime next year.

A crowd several thousand strong, gathered today as Commercial Aircraft Corp of China, also known as Comac, rolled out the single-aisle C919 airliner at the company's manufacturing and assembly centre in Pudong, near Shanghai's main airport.

The plane emerged from behind red curtains with gold trimming to great applause and patriotic songs blaring from the sound system.

''The air transportation industry of China cannot completely rely on imports,'' Li Jiaxiang, head of China's civil aviation administration, said in a speech. ''A great nation must have its own large commercial aircraft.''

According to commentators, China's focus on a homegrown aerospace industry formed part of a broader push aimed at developing its economy on par with advanced industrialised nations by 2020.

The aircraft with a capacity of 168 passengers could challenge the dominance of the Airbus A320 and Boeing 737 in the market for planes with 100 plus seats.

Comac said that it had received 517 purchase commitments for the plane, from 21 customers, with nearly all orders from Chinese customers.

"It's a major push for the country, as they want to be known as a major player" in airplane manufacturing, said Mavis Toh, Asia air transport editor for Flightglobal magazine, AP reported.

According to commentators, the C919 was one of a number of initiatives launched by the ruling Communist Party to transform China from the world's low-cost factory into a creator of profitable technology in aviation, clean energy and other fields.

A separate state-owned company also had also developed a smaller regional jet, the ARJ-21, to taken on Brazil's Embraer and Canada's Bombardier in a market segment. The first two ARJ-21s were delivered last year to a Chinese airline.

Boeing has projected China's total demand for civilian jetliners over the next two decades at 5,580 planes worth a total of $780 billion.

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