China is expected this week to conduct the maiden test flight of a home-grown passenger jet built to meet soaring domestic travel demand and challenge the dominance of Boeing and Airbus.
The Comac 919 successfully completed its first test flight from Shanghai International Airport on May 5th.
However, China is running with the patriotic angle, with state broadcaster CGTN hailing the flight as "another fulfilment of a Chinese dream".
1/3: China's aviation market still has a ways to go.
"The significance is huge, it's the first ever large-frame aircraft made in China".
The plane, which can carry 158-168 passengers, had no passenger seats installed for the maiden flight.
However, according to commentators, the programme was years, if not decades behind aircraft made by Airbus and Boeing that were cheaper to fuel and easier to maintain. The latter step confirms the company's intention to market the aircraft internationally. Both put the combined price tags for those planes at around $1 trillion.
"The maiden flight is exciting", said Wu Guanghui, the C919's chief designer, hailing it as the start of a new era in China's advanced manufacturing.
"This is an important milestone for China with this new aircraft". Adopting a cutting-edge engine and other components, the C919 is considered comparable with the rival planes in quality, said Yasuo Hashimoto, senior researcher at Japan Aviation Management Research.
Air China (601111.CN), China Eastern Airlines (600115.CN) and China Southern Airlines (600029.CN) together placed US$20 billion worth of orders for new aircraft a year ago alone.
With the takeoff, China's official Xinhua News Agency said the country had become "one of the world's top makers of jumbo aircraft", becoming the fourth jumbo jet producer after the U.S., Europe and Russian Federation.
"You are going to have three big companies". "Boeing and Airbus are very mature aircraft manufacturers, and COMAC should seek further cooperation with them to learn from their experiences, according to aviation analysts", Xinhua wrote.
But it will take years to reach that destination, and the aircraft maker is likely to focus first on domestic customers.
Following the successful flight, the C919 faces the hurdle of winning type certificates from the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration and the European Aviation Safety Agency.
But he added that the C919 might be able to get orders from startup airlines that aren't already flying either of the Western models. It was flown by a Chinese airline for the first time past year.
In 2007, the State Council approved plans to develop a large passenger jet. The C919 counts as many as 16 global corporations as suppliers, including GE and Honeywell International Inc.
May 2014: Chinese President Xi Jinping visits COMAC's offices and says large jets are a reflection of China's national capabilities and urges the development of a competitive aviation industry.style="text-align: center;"