C919 Has Maiden Flight
China’s long-awaited C919 single-aisle airliner flew for the first time on Friday and completed an 80-minute low-altitude and low-speed loop around the Yangtze River delta area before landing in Shanghai. The Chinese government, which built the airliner through its wholly owned Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China (COMAC), issued a statement saying the flight went well and all systems worked. The project, which is about three years behind schedule, is a marquee initiative in China’s bid to free itself from reliance on Western technology for the sophisticated products its burgeoning middle class demands, but China had plenty of help to get this aircraft into the air.
The engines are French CFM LEAP-1C high-efficiency turbofans, the avionics are from Honeywell and GE built the flight management and reporting systems. Michelin makes the tires. The airframe borrows heavily from the designs of the A320 and Boeing 737. Although it was widely portrayed as a direct challenge to Boeing and Airbus’s duopoly in that market segment, it will likely be some time before there is any tangible effect, if at all. The C919 will make a dent in the other companies’ domination of the Chinese domestic airline market but the aircraft has made virtually no inroads in other markets. The company says it has 530 orders for the twinjet but it’s apparently under no illusions about the difficulty of cracking the export market. Banners at the assembly plant urge workers to endure “hardship,” “dedication" and “struggle” to get the jet to market.