Crowds cheer as first Chinese-made passenger plane makes maiden flight

In an earlier development, an evaluation committee consisting 63 aviation specialists from across China has agreed that the C919 - a twin-engine, narrow-body aircraft similar in size to the Airbus 320 and Boeing 737 series of jets - is technically ready for its maiden flight, the Shanghai-based aircraft maker Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China (COMAC) said.

Built by state-owned aerospace manufacturer Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China (COMAC), the plane represents almost a decade of effort in a government-mandated drive to reduce dependence on European consortium Airbus and USA aerospace giant Boeing. With China's aviation market growing rapidly as a rising middle class travels more for leisure and business, the C919 aircraft is also expected to eventually take market share from Boeing and Airbus in the lucrative narrow-body market, which accounts for more than 50 percent of the aircraft in service worldwide.

As China continues to make waves in the global commercial airliner market, the country conducted its first successful test flight Friday of the C919 passenger jet.

"C919 aircraft has a layout of 158 to 168 seats, and a range of 4,075 to 5,555 kilometers", Comac said on its website. Last year, COMAC told the media that it had already received 570 orders for the C919 from 23 customers.

China's first large jetliner took its maiden flight on Friday, performing a series of test maneuvers in hazy skies near Shanghai.

The C919 will need to pass more tests to obtain Chinese airworthiness certification.

With a population of 1.4 billion, the trips add up: Analysts predict that China will surpass the U.S.as the world's largest commercial aviation market by 2030.

The C919 plane, according to the official Xinhua News Agency, owns independent intellectual property rights for the design.

Both companies congratulated COMAC on the flight. The long-delayed maiden flight was watched by a large crowd that included dignitaries and aviation workers. It has been beset by delays blamed on manufacturing problems. This follows the move by its chief rival Airbus to set up a final assembly plant in China in 2008.

Airbus delivered 153 aircraft to Chinese operators a year ago, including 141 from the A320 family, Eric Chen, president of Airbus Commercial Aircraft China, said in an emailed statement. "And we welcome competition, which is good for the development of the industry".

"I believe that this first Chinese passenger airliner will find a niche, and will occupy an important place in the domestic Chinese market, as well as will start some kind of advance to the outside market", said Vasily Kashin, a senior research fellow at the Center for Comprehensive European and International Studies of the Moscow-based Higher School of Economics (HSE). This marks the Asian giant's entry into the highly-competitive global aviation sector which is dominated by Boeing and Airbus.

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