Competing for a share of the US$70 billion-a-year global aircraft market, against stalwarts like Boeing and Airbus, Commercial Aircraft Corp. of China announced its first 100 orders for the 166-seat yet-in-development C919 plane, the country’s first made in China aircraft. Buyers are five domestic airlines and leasing companies including Air China Ltd., China Southern Airlines Co., Hainan Airlines and China Eastern Airlines Corp, GE Capital Aviation Services, whose parent company, General Electric Co., is providing the aircraft engines and France’s Safran. COMAC has estimated a demand for 2,000 C919 planes in the domestic and overseas markets.
While the plane was unveiled recently at the Zhuahai Air Show 2010, held in Southern China, airlines are yet holding on to their purchasing decisions, uncertain of whether China can deliver a competitive aircraft. The in-development aircraft is due to make its maiden flight in 2014 and enter service by 2016. It will have a range of 2,200 nautical miles (3,500 km), according to details at the stand.
China which recently opened up 4,000 meters of military airspace for civilian and commercial use is pegged to become the world’s fastest-growing market for commercial aircrafts as the country plans to add about 100 new airports over the next decade. Last week, Boeing raised its 20-year forecast for Chinese new-plane demand to 4,330 airplanes worth US$480 billion, from 3,770 planes worth US$400 billion. Currently, the Chinese fleet includes more than 1,500 airplanes.
The formation of COMAC and China’s foray into the airplane manufacturing sector is another indicator the middle kingdom is keen to demonstrate its technical and economic prowess against the west. REgionally too, China is eager to display her achievements, the C919 stands to give China bragging rights as the only Asian country to successfully produce a commercial aircraft after attempts by Japan, South Korea and Indonesia failed to get off the ground.