China’s home-grown C919 passenger jet landed successfully in Shanghai after an 80-minute maiden flight on Friday, a major step for Beijing as it looks to boost its profile in the global aviation market.
The narrow-body aircraft, which will compete with Boeing’s 737 and the Airbus A320, is a key symbol of China’s ambitions to muscle into a global jet market estimated to be worth $2 trillion over the next 20 years.
State television reported the plane’s test flight would last one-and-a-half hours at a height of around 3,000 metres and at a speeds of 290-300 kilometres (180-186 miles) per hour. According to aircraft tracker Flightradar24, the plane flew over the Yangtze River estuary and headed due north.
The C919, made by state-owned Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China (COMAC), has seen its test flight pushed back at least twice since 2014 due to production issues, underlining the scale of the task facing Beijing.
China first gave the world a glimpse of the plane, which will be able to carry 158-168 passengers, in November 2015 when it rolled it out at a ceremony in Shanghai.
Analysts, however, say the C919 will lag technologically behind improved versions of the A320 and 737 which will enter service in the next two years. China Eastern Airlines is the launch customer for the plane, which COMAC says has 570 orders from 23 customers.