Struggling Chinese airliner finally slated for first commercial flight

Struggling Chinese airliner finally slated for first commercial flight

Photo: imaginechina (PA)

Building a commercial airliner is such a monumental task that there are only two major manufacturers in the world, Airbus and Boeing. However, the The People’s Republic of China hopes to break into the multi-billion dollar market with its first domestically produced large passenger plane, the Comac C919. After 14 years of development and questionable acquisition of foreign intellectual property, the airliner is expected to make its first commercial flight this weekend.

China Eastern Airlines received the first C919 last December and it is the only one delivered so far. According to ReutersChina Eastern will finally use the airliner in revenue service on a 10:45 a.m. flight from Shanghai Hongqiao International Airport to Beijing Airport on Sunday. The historic flight will bear the appropriate number MU9191. And for any momentous occasion of national importance, a stamp has already been ordered to commemorate the flight.

The Comac C919 is intended to compete with the Airbus A320 and the Boeing 737. The public aircraft manufacturer has entered into several collaboration agreements with Western companies such as GE Aerospace and Honeywell to develop the C919, but has also been accused of stealing the technology to build the airliner. A Chinese intelligence officer has been arrested, tried and convicted of industrial espionage in a case involving US aerospace expertise. However, the Chinese Foreign Ministry believes the charges were fabricated.

Time will tell if Comac will become a major player in the aviation industry alongside Airbus and Boeing. China’s various state-owned airlines have a total of 95 orders for the C919. There are almost no foreign orders for the airliner. The Irish low-cost airline helped develop the C919 but placed an order for the plane.


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