China’s state-run airplane manufacturer debuted its new C919 commercial jetliner this week, a competitor to the hugely popular Boeing 737 and Airbus A320 short- to mid-range passenger planes.
With China’s domestic airline industry booming (along with the rest of China if Tim Cook is to be believed), the country is looking to build more jets domestically rather than purchasing planes from European Airbus or US-based Boeing. The C919, made by the Commercial Aircraft Corp. of China (COMAC), will seat 158 to 174 passengers depending on cabin configuration. COMAC says it has 517 orders for the plane from 21 different customers. The plane is expected to see deliveries beginning in 2018 or 2019, assuming successful flight testing next year.
It will be tricky for an upstart airframe to make much headway into international markets, where Airbus and Boeing have huge market share, but with many Chinese airlines owned by the government — which, not coincidentally, also owns COMAC — there is a built-in market for the plane. If the C919 was to fly to the United States or the EU, it would need to pass strict safety certifications from the FAA and its European counterpart.