A large passenger jet designed and made by China just passed expert assessment yesterday and is ready for test flight, positioning China one step closer in breaking the aviation duopoly by U.S.'s Boeing Co. and Europe's Airbus Group SE.
The narrow-body C919, produced by the state-owned Commercial Aircraft Corp. of China Ltd. (COMAC), passed its second high-speed taxiing test, usually deemed as the last step before a maiden flight, the Shanghai-based manufacturer said in an announcement.
The company did not give a timetable, but observers say that the plane could take flight before the end of this year.
An assessment panel of 25 experts from Chinese research institutes, the civil aviation administration, and domestic jet makers gave unanimous approval of the C919’s technical parameters and preparedness of aircraft crew and ground services in a series of tests conducted on Tuesday.
On Sunday, the aircraft passed an initial high-speed taxiing trial at Shanghai Pudong International Airport, after passing a major technical assessment in March. A C919 prototype was delivered to COMAC’s Shanghai flight test center in December.
The C919 is China’s first commercial single-aisle large civil aircraft, with a capacity of 158 to 174 seats and a range of 4,075 to 5,555 kilometers, according to COMAC's website.
Airbus said last year that China would need nearly 6,000 new passenger aircraft and freighters from 2016 to 2035, with a total market value of US$945 billion. This represents 18% of global demand over the next 20 years.
COMAC said it has received a total of 570 orders from 23 customers, including domestic airliners China Eastern Airlines Corp. Ltd., China Southern Airlines Co. Ltd., and Air China Ltd., as well as aviation financing giant GE Capital Aviation Services.
COMAC developed the ARJ21, a smaller regional jet, which began flights in June 2016.