The nation’s first homegrown passenger jet C919 is capable of meeting the growing requirements of the domestic civil aviation market and boost the country’s manufacturing prowess globally, according to its manufacturer－the Commercial Aircraft Corp of China Ltd.
The company, also known as COMAC, expects to conduct more test flights of the C919 by the end of the year, according to Wu Yue, an assistant to the general manager of COMAC. By 2020, it plans to put six C919 aircraft on the market.
The C919 was rolled off the assembly line in 2015 and made its first successful test flight in May 2017. COMAC has so far received about 815 orders for the C919.
Based on COMAC forecasts, around 43,013 new aircraft will be delivered worldwide in the next two decades, the value of which will amount to over $5.78 trillion. China’s aircraft fleet will expand by 5.2 percent every year and over 8,575 new aircraft would be delivered within the next 20 years.
The total value of these new airplanes will reach over $1.2 trillion. “The development of the Chinese commercial passenger aircraft industry will be an important driving force of the country’s economy,” he said.
Wu stressed that the development of civil aircraft will help with China’s industrial upgrading and economic transformation. According to Boeing estimates, when the sales revenue of the civil aircraft industry goes up by 1 percent, local GDP will increase by 0.714 percent and also boost technology transfer and employment.
“The aviation industry has a relatively longer industrial chain, spread over a number of related industries such as new materials, advanced power systems, electronics information, automatic controls and computer sciences,” said Wu.
The C919 aircraft is a narrow-body or single-aisle aircraft able to accommodate about 150 passengers, which is one of the most popular models in the world. Boeing 737 and Airbus A320 are of similar design.
“We will see the emergence of a strong Chinese civil aviation industry with the launch of C919,” he said.
The aircraft maker is also abreast of the stiff market competition in the narrow-body aircraft market and has chalked out a clear development plan for C919. According to Xu Pei, deputy director of the marketing and sales department of COMAC, the company will mainly focus on the domestic market for C919, while steadily exploring the international market.
“More private airlines will enter the domestic aviation market after market entry norms are relaxed,” said Xu.
The steady progress made by the C919 can be largely attributed to the research and development that COMAC has stressed over time. The company has so far gained 108 key technologies, applied for 1,125 patents and issued another 610 patents. Among COMAC’S 10,000 employees, more than 65 percent are working in R&D-related positions.
“The purpose is to build a civil aviation technology system for China,” said Jin Saijun, deputy director of the technology management department of COMAC.
Cooperation with companies at home and abroad has also propelled the development of C919 and the Chinese civil aviation industry as well. Up till now, COMAC has reached cooperation with 200 suppliers from 15 countries and regions, including international industry leaders such as General Electric Co.