China Eastern Airlines Corp. will be the first customer to take delivery of the home made C919 single-aisle passenger jet as a state-owned planemaker markets the aircraft whose maiden test flight has been delayed at least twice since 2014.
A COMAC spokesman told Reuters that the much-delayed C919, created to be China's challenger to airliners made by industry giants Boeing Co and Airbus Group, may take its first test flight later this year or early 2017. The new plane is expected to challenge the Airbus-Boeing duopoly.
The C919 first rolled off the assembly lines in November 2015. Longhao Air signed a commitment to purchase an unspecified number of the smaller 90-seat jets, while a local lessor has agreed to buy 20 with a pledge for more, COMAC said in the statement.
According to China Eastern, the company will start formal negotiations with COMAC for a firm order within one year after the C919 completes its inaugural flight, which is scheduled by year-end or early 2017.
"At some point, China can not simply rely on imports from Boeing and Airbus for its aircraft demand", said Prof Liu. "The market is still growing faster than we can cover".
Airbus executives unveiled the Chinese forecasts at the air show in China, held every other year in Zhuhai, southern China.
According to earlier information the wide-body will be assembled in China, but the engineering and design center will be located in Russian Federation. For aviation manufacturing, Beijing has set its eyes on developing widebody passenger jets, heavy helicopters and various types of engines, in cooperation with global partners.
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The basic model of the jet will have four doors on both sides, 280 seats in three classes, and features a flight range of 12,000 km. Including Tuesday's agreements, Comac has orders and commitments from 23 customers for about 570 aircraft, it said.
The C919 is in good shape for the test flight and the developer sees no reason for another delay, a representative for COMAC said, without providing a date.
Li said China's aviation authorities take the safety of the aircraft seriously. "In order to achieve the comfort level for airlines, especially first-tier airlines, it could take more than two decades".
"At some point, China can not simply rely on imports from Boeing and Airbus for its aircraft demand", Renmin University's Liu said.
PROFESSOR LIU YUANCHUN, executive dean of the National Academy of Development and Strategy at Renmin University of China.
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