The world’s first C919, a China-made narrow-body aircraft, has been delivered to launch customer China Eastern Airlines
(CEA) in Shanghai on Friday and took off on a 15-minute flight to mark the historic moment.
The plane, a rival to the Airbus
(EADSY) A320neo and Boeing
(LICENSED IN LETTERS) The single-aisle 737 MAX families of aircraft are expected to make their first commercial flight next spring, according to the state-run Xinhua news agency.
It was certified for safe operations in September and mass production in November.
The plane, delivered to China Eastern, has 164 seats and was painted with “the world’s first C919” on its side in Chinese and English. Its maiden route will be between Shanghai and the capital Beijing, industry sources have said.
China Eastern said on Friday that it plans to receive the remaining four orders for its first batch of C919s in the next two years, according to Shanghai’s The Paper, a state-run newspaper. That compares with previous plans to get all four next year.
The airline did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
China’s narrow-body aircraft ambitions have intensified in recent years amid conflicts with the United States over trade to technology that have made China increasingly concerned about relying too heavily on Airbus and Boeing.
Commercial Aviation Corp of China (COMAC) is expected to produce around 25 C919s per year by 2030, well below rivals’ current monthly narrow-body production rates, according to Jefferies analysts.
COMAC did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
China is trying to increase the proportion of domestic parts in the C919 and a reciprocating engine called the CJ-1000A is under development.