Date
4 December 2016
Despite delays to the C919 program, the builder says it has already got commitments from 21 customers for 517 planes. Photo: Airliners.net
Despite delays to the C919 program, the builder says it has already got commitments from 21 customers for 517 planes. Photo: Airliners.net

Chinese planemaker chases dream to challenge Airbus, Boeing

China is challenging Airbus Group SE and Boeing Co. in the global market for air planes.

That ambition is slowly taking shape in a hangar in Shanghai, accordmg to Bloomberg.

The state-owned Commercial Aircraft Corp. of China Ltd., locally known as COMAC, is building the 168-seat, single-aisle aircraft C919, betting the model would help the planemaker break into the big league.

It’s banking on expertise gained from its smaller 90-seat jet, the ARJ21, which has won commercial orders worth at least US$2 billion, mostly from local companies.

Despite delays to the C919 program — the first test flight has been postponed at least twice since 2014 — the builder says it has already got commitments from 21 customers for 517 planes.

At the Zhuhai Air Show this week, COMAC is set to showcase the aircraft with a mock-up and could announce more interest from prospective buyers.

The passenger jet project is part of an ambitious plan by President Xi Jinping to transform China from a maker of sneakers, apparels and toys into one that can compete with the likes of Airbus and Boeing.

Getting the C919 from the design board to the skies is crucial for Xi, who has identified aerospace among sectors that could help accelerate modernization of the economy to resemble Japan and Germany.

“Domestic airplane manufacturing is a good case of the country’s ambition to secure a foothold at the very top of the global value chain,” said Liu Yuanchun, executive dean of the National Academy of Development and Strategy at Renmin University of China in Beijing.

“There’s still some serious groundwork to do to eventually realize its ambition of mastering sophisticated design and manufacturing processes.”

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