China unveils new orders for homegrown passenger jet

Authorities hope the C919 will challenge foreign models like the Boeing 737 MAX and the Airbus A320
Authorities hope the C919 will challenge foreign models like the Boeing 737 MAX and the Airbus A320.

China announced Wednesday hundreds of new orders for its first domestically manufactured large passenger jet, with the aircraft poised to make its commercial debut early next year.

The state-owned Commercial Aircraft Corp of China (COMAC) said it had sealed orders for 300 of the narrow-body C919 at a major airshow on Tuesday.

The announcement did not clarify whether the orders had been fully confirmed, and gave no details about the value of the deals or expected delivery dates.

If the orders go through, it would take the number of known deals for the C919 to more than 1,100, based on figures from previous COMAC statements.

Authorities hope the C919—the country's first homegrown jetliner with mass commercial potential—will challenge foreign models like the Boeing 737 MAX and the Airbus A320.

Beijing also anticipates that the will help reduce the country's reliance on foreign technology amid testy ties with Western countries—though most of the plane's parts are sourced from abroad.

COMAC said it had reached agreements with seven leasing firms for a combined 330 aircraft, including 30 of the C919's predecessor, the ARJ21 regional jet, which came into operation in 2008.

The orders "fully expressed the confidence of our leasing partners" in the two models, COMAC said.

China's C919
Factfile on the C919, China's first domestically produced large passenger jet.

The company showed off the C919 on Tuesday at the China International Aviation and Aerospace Exhibition.

The sleek aircraft taxied down a runway in the southern city of Zhuhai before soaring into the skies in front of hundreds of onlookers.

Few details of existing orders for the C919 have been disclosed.

But domestic media have reported that four aircraft are expected to be delivered to China Eastern Airlines—the country's second-largest carrier by passenger numbers—by the end of this year, and go into operation in the first quarter of 2023.

China sealed a deal for Airbus jets worth $17 billion earlier this year.

The company began producing its A321 model in the eastern city of Tianjin on Wednesday with a view to making deliveries early next year, according to Xinhua.

The state-owned news agency quoted Airbus China CEO George Xu as saying the move displayed the company's "unwavering support for the Chinese market".

The Boeing 737 MAX has been grounded in China since 2019 after two , though Boeing said in July that it may be approved for delivery by Chinese regulators this year.

But lingering US-China trade tensions and China's worst commercial air disaster earlier this year involving a Boeing 737-800 have slowed progress.

© 2022 AFP

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