China eyes global market after Comac C919 maiden flight

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The C919 passenger jet soared over Pudong global airport in the commercial hub Shanghai, various local media reported Friday.

"The flight makes China the fourth jumbo jet producer after the United States, Europe and Russian Federation, " the Xinhua news agency reported after the C919 flew north over the Yangtze River delta, performed various manoeuvres before returning south along the coast. Final ground tests only concluded a few weeks ago, much later than the original schedule of a first flight in 2014, and aircraft delivery in 2016.

If Friday's maiden flight is successful, COMAC, the aircraft's maker, will seek certification from China's civil aviation authority and foreign regulators.

It will have a range of between 4,075 and 5,555km (2,532 - 3,452 miles).

The successful flight signals China's entry into the global aviation market, and moves the country one step closer to transforming itself from a manufacturer of low-priced goods to a creator of advanced technology. The C919 landed safely after an hour-long test flight, marking a major milestone in China's long-term ambition to crack into the global civilian airline market.

The official Xinhua News Agency says 23 domestic and foreign customers have placed orders for a total of 570 aircraft.

November 2010: China announces the C919 has received its first order - a deal for 100 planes.

People gather around China's home-grown C919 passenger jet following its maiden flight at the Pudong International Airport in Shanghai.

The safety certification of the new plane - which state media says will have a catalog price tag of around $50 million, less than half that of a Boeing 737 or Airbus A320 - could be among the biggest issues for the C919 internationally.

The first flight was supposed to take place past year, but was delayed until now.

Airbus has five joint ventures in China, including a factory that assembles A320s in Tianjin, a port city near Beijing, that opened in 2008.

"The large aircraft market can definitely accommodate C919 to form a A+B+c market structure", Gao told NBC News, noting that the small letter "c" represents the Chinese jet in a market that will continue to be dominated by Airbus and Boeing.

However, according to commentators, the programme was years, if not decades behind aircraft made by Airbus and Boeing that were cheaper to fuel and easier to maintain.

Another challenge for the C919 is earning consumers' trust, said Shukor Yusof, an analyst with Malaysia-based aviation consultancy Endau Analytics.

His call to arms is emblazoned on the wall of the jet's production facility: "Accelerate the construction of the world's top aviation company and continue to make new contributions to develop a strong aviation industry".

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