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China’s answer to Boeing and Airbus, the C919, takes first commercial flight

<i>CFOTO/Future Publishing/Getty Images</i><br/>The Chinese-made C919 takes off from Shanghai Hongqiao Airport on May 28 for its first commercial flight.
CFOTO/Future Publishing/Getty Images
The Chinese-made C919 takes off from Shanghai Hongqiao Airport on May 28 for its first commercial flight.

By Irene Nasser, Karla Cripps and Mengchen Zhang, CNN

(CNN) — China’s first large homegrown passenger jet made its inaugural commercial flight on Sunday, flying from Shanghai to Beijing, Chinese state news agency Xinhua reported.

Flying as China Eastern Airlines flight MU9191, the new narrow-body C919 plane left Shanghai at 10:32 a.m. local time. It was welcomed with a water salute after it landed at the Beijing Capital International Airport at 12:31 p.m.

After years of research and development, the launch of the C919 is seen as a pivotal moment in Beijing’s “Made in China 2025” strategy, which aims to boost local manufacturing, including by reducing reliance on foreign airplanes for its aviation sector.

“The first commercial flight is a coming-of-age ceremony of the new aircraft, and C919 will get better and better if it stands the test of the market,” said Zhang Xiaoguang, director of the marketing and sales department of COMAC, in a Xinhua report.

With a range of up to 5,555 kilometers (3,452 miles), the C919 will take on the world’s two major aircraft manufacturers, Airbus and Boeing. It will be a direct competitor to their A320 and B737 narrowbody jets, most commonly used for domestic and regional international flights.

Built by COMAC (Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China) in China, the first C919 was delivered to China Eastern Airlines in December 2022 and in the months since has been put through a series of test flights.

The single-aisle, twin-engined aircraft has 164 seats in a two-class cabin configuration consisting of business and economy seats.

According to the 2022 Shanghai Science and Technology Progress Report issued by the Shanghai government, 32 clients had placed a total of 1,035 orders for the plane as of the end of 2022.

Many of the plane’s major elements such as the nose, fuselage, outer wing, vertical stabilizer and horizontal stabilizer were designed by COMAC.

However, the company enlisted Western companies to assist with some components. This includes the plane’s LEAP-1C engines, which were developed by CFM International, a joint venture between General Electric and French high-tech industrial group Safran.

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