SHANGHAI: The C919, China’s self-developed large passenger aircraft, completed its first commercial flight from Shanghai to Beijing, marking its official entry into the civil aviation market.
The flight, operated by China Eastern Airlines, took off as MU9191 at 10.32am from Shanghai Hongqiao International Airport with 128 passengers on board.
The plane was greeted with a water salute after touching down at Beijing Capital International Airport at 12.31pm yesterday.
The C919 is China’s first self-developed trunk jetliner in accordance with international airworthiness standards and owns independent intellectual property rights.
The C919 project was launched in 2007. Developed by the Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China (Comac), the first C919 aircraft rolled off the production line in Shanghai in November 2015.
In 2017, the plane accomplished its maiden flight.
“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.
Beijing hopes the C919 commercial jetliner will challenge foreign models like the Boeing 737 MAX and the Airbus A320, though many of its parts are sourced from abroad.
Its first homegrown jetliner with mass commercial potential would also cut the country’s reliance on foreign technology as ties with the West deteriorate.
“In the future, most passengers will be able to choose to travel by large, domestically produced aircraft,” state broadcaster CCTV said.
“(The flight) was extremely smooth, comfortable and memorable. I think I’ll remember this fondly for some time to come,” a male passenger told CCTV.
Passengers received red boarding passes and a sumptuous “themed meal” to commemorate the flight, CCTV reported.
Other footage showed passengers waving national flags and singing a patriotic song while a cake was being cut during the flight.
Zhang Xiaoguang, Comac’s director of marketing and sales, told Xinhua the flight was a “coming-of-age ceremony (for) the new aircraft”, adding the C919 “will get better if it stands the test of the market”.
From today, the C919 will operate on China Eastern’s regular route between Shanghai and the southwestern city of Chengdu, CCTV reported.
The first model of the narrow-body jet was formally handed over to China Eastern last year during a ceremony at an airport in Shanghai, hailed by state media as “an important milestone” for the country’s aircraft industry.
Zhang Yujin, Comac’s deputy general manager, told state-backed Shanghai outlet The Paper in January that the company had taken around 1,200 orders for the C919.
Comac planned to increase annual production capacity to 150 models within five years, Zhang said at the time.
Asia and China in particular are key targets for European manufacturer Airbus and its American rival Boeing, which are looking to capitalise on growing demand for air travel from the country’s vast middle class.
Last month, Airbus said it would double its production capacity in China, signing a deal to build a second final assembly line for the A320 in Tianjin. — Xinhua/Agencies