Economy

China's C919 jet: A timeline of events from drawing board to take-off

China's C919 jet: A timeline of events from drawing board to take-off

Just after 06:00 GMT, the first C919 rolled down and off a runway at Shanghai Pudong airport, to the sounds of applause of onlookers and plenty of senior officials who showed up to celebrate a milestone for Chinese industry.It touched down 75 minutes later after a successful flight.

It claims to have already received 570 orders from 23 customers, most of which are reportedly state-owned airlines.

The Chinese plane is touted to rival to the Airbus A320 and Boeing 737, but a spokesman for the aircraft's maker said it can not compare.

Models of the ARJ21 regional jet from Commercial Aircraft Corp of China on display.

The single-aisle plane is created to carry between 155 and 175 seats, and fly 2,530 miles (4,075 km).

The development of the C919 a key step on the path laid out by Chinese leaders to transform the country into a creator of profitable technology. "Although it could be a long road, we will work hard to chase that goal (of manufacturing a large aircraft)", he had said during a 2014 visit to Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China (Comac), the Shanghai-based manufacturer of the plane.

The narrow-body jet, will take on Boeing's 737 and the Airbus A320. Comac will also need to win the trust of airlines in China and elsewhere by proving the jet can operate efficiently and reliably on scheduled flights. The twin-engine C919, whose name sounds like the Chinese word for "everlasting", can seat 168 passengers in an arrangement similar to other narrow-body jets: three white-velvet upholstered seats line each side of its central aisle.

A recent Boeing forecast said China will need 6,810 new aircraft in the next 20 years at an estimated cost of United States dollars one trillion.

Experts predict that China will be the world's largest market for airplanes by 2024, requiring 6,800 new planes over the next two decades to satisfy its needs. Chinese media said the plane will cost around $50 mln, significantly less then a Boeing 737 or Airbus 320, its closest equivalents.

China's civil aviation regulator has issued a top-level red alert for mass flight delays that may hit the Pudong airport between 1pm and 3:30pm today. By the end of past year, 21 customers had placed orders for more than 500 C919 aircraft, and COMAC expects to sell at least 2,000.

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

Meanwhile, low-priced home-built aircraft would also help Chinese airlines save costs and boost earnings.

There is still a long way to go down the road to a globally competitive aerospace industry, however.

Levine said the Western giants had good reason to be sanguine about the C919's development.