The first Chinese-designed airliner completed its maiden commercial flight

S├ębastien Le Belzic (in Beijing) / Photo credit: STR / AFP
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1:33 p.m., May 28, 2023

China’s first Chinese-designed airliner, the C919, completed its maiden commercial flight on Sunday, a turning point for China’s airline industry that has long sought to compete with its Western rivals.

It is the first medium-haul aircraft entirely manufactured by China, with the notable exception of the engine supplied by the French group SAFRAN. Flight MU9191 landed gently on the tarmac at Beijing Capital International Airport on Sunday with 130 passengers on board.

A direct competitor to the Airbus A320

A successful first commercial flight for the C919, a direct competitor to the Airbus A320, the world’s best-selling aircraft. A feat against the duopoly formed by Airbus and Boeing. “It’s very, very difficult to build an airplane. It’s obvious that Boeing has been around for more than 100 years, Airbus for more than 50 years,” says Haro Chen, a commercial aviation expert.

10 years to succeed in this challenge

It took only ten years for China to succeed in this challenge. The device ultimately costs twice as much as expected, almost the same price as its Western competitors. But for China it is primarily a question of prestige. The national companies have already ordered more than 300 aircraft but it will still be necessary to wait to see it fly abroad. The C919 has not yet received the green light from European and American regulators.

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