Building a commercial airliner is such a huge task that there are only two of them important manufacturers in the world, Airbus and Boeing. However the The People’s Republic of China is hoping to break into the multibillion-dollar market with its first domestically produced large passenger aircraft, the Comac C919. After 14 years of development and the questionable acquisition of foreign intellectual property, the plane will make its first commercial flight this weekend.
China Eastern Airlines received its first C919 in December last year, and it has been the only one so far. According to ReutersChina Eastern will finally use the airliner in revenue service on its 10:45 a.m. flight from Shanghai Hongqiao International Airport to Beijing Capital Airport this Sunday. The landmark flight will be appropriately numbered: MU9191. And for every occasion of significant national importance, a stamp has already been ordered to commemorate the flight.
Comac C919’s competitor is the Airbus A320 and the Boeing 737. The state-owned aircraft manufacturer has signed several cooperation agreements with Western companies such as GE Aerospace and Honeywell to develop the C919, but accused of stealing the technology needed to build the plane. A Chinese intelligence officer has been arrested, tried and found guilty of corporate espionage in a case involving US aviation expertise. However, China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs feels that the allegations were fabricated.
Time will tell whether Comac will become a major player in the aviation industry alongside Airbus and Boeing. A total of 95 orders for the C919 have been placed by various Chinese state-owned airlines. There are almost no foreign orders for the passenger carrier. The Irish low-cost airline helped develop the C919, but placed an order for the aircraft.