China’s first big passenger plane rolls off production line

Beijing, Nov 2 (IANS) China’s first domestically-produced large passenger aircraft was unveiled in Shanghai on Monday.

The C919 plane was developed by the Commercial Aircraft Corp. of China (COMAC) and after approval for commercial use it is expected to compete with the updated Airbus 320 and Boeing’s new-generation 737, Xinhua reported.

C919 has 158 seats and a standard range of 4,075 km.

With its maiden flight scheduled for 2016, and at least three years of test flights, it will take some time before the single-aisle jet can ply commercial air routes the world over.

COMAC said it had already accepted 517 orders from 21 foreign and domestic customers.

The version hot off the production line on Monday is the basic model. However, COMAC has extended and shortened, cargo and business versions in the pipeline, too.

In addition, this new-generation jet will have flexible cabin designs to suit different airlines.

The C919 is the result of seven years of hard work by a group of 200 aircraft component manufacturers and research teams with 36 higher-learning institutes from 22 provinces and municipalities in China.

More than 30 foreign firms including GE and Honeywell have supplied components for the C919 aircraft and over 200,000 technicians were involved throughout the production cycle.

“The aircraft uses the very best of domestic and foreign resources, and was designed and made in accordance with international standards,” said C919 chief designer and COMAC deputy general manager Wu Guanghui.

COMAC chair Jin Zhuanglong said the aircraft featured 102 new applications of technology and materials, including third generation aluminium-lithium alloy materials, which were used for the body.

“Safety is our top priority. Tests will cover avionic, flight control, hydraulics and airborne systems,” he said, adding that six C919 jets would all be put through the vigorous test flights.

Honeywell was brought aboard as a consultant and helped with safety, reliability and efficiency, according to Briand Greer, president of Honeywell Aerospace Asia Pacific.

In 2008, COMAC produced the ARJ21-700 regional jet, first airliner independently designed in accordance with international standards. The five-seat per row jet was awarded airworthiness certificates from both the Civil Aviation Administration of China and US Federal Aviation Agency.

The ARJ21-700 underwent six-years of gruelling tests before the civil aviation authority awarded it accreditation in 2014.

COMAC has proven experience of airworthiness testing, this will make the process for the C919 much easier, said Wu.

China is the world’s largest civil aviation market, with its 21 largest airports seeing annual throughput exceeding 10 million passengers.

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