China’s first homegrown passenger jet makes maiden commercial flight

The C919, China’s first domestically made passenger aircraft, took off on its inaugural commercial flight on Sunday, marking a watershed moment in the country’s decades-long struggle to compete with Western rivals in the air.

China Eastern Airlines flight MU9191 took off from Shanghai Hongqiao Airport shortly after 10:30 a.m. (0230 GMT), according to CCTV footage.

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According to CCTV, the plane is carrying about 130 passengers on China Eastern Airlines flight MU9191 to Beijing’s Capital International Airport.

According to the airline’s website, the flight is scheduled to arrive at its destination around 1:10 p.m. (0510 GMT).

Hundreds of passengers gathered at the sun-drenched Shanghai runway to admire the sleek white jet, according to footage published by official media.

They then boarded the small plane, which taxied to the runway before taking off.

Passengers were given red boarding cards and will be treated to a delicious “themed meal” to commemorate the flight, according to CCTV.

China has made significant investments in domestic jet production as part of its efforts to become self-sufficient in key technology.

Beijing expects the C919 to compete with popular foreign aircraft such as the Boeing 737 MAX and the Airbus A320.

The aircraft is built by the state-owned Commercial Aviation Corp of China (COMAC), but many of its components are imported from other countries.

The C919 will begin service on China Eastern’s regular route between Shanghai and the southwestern city of Chengdu on Monday, according to CCTV.

“In the future, most passengers will be able to choose to travel by large, domestically produced aircraft,” CCTV said.

The first model of the narrow-body jet, which seats 164 passengers, was formally delivered to China Eastern in December.

COMAC’s deputy general manager, Zhang Yujin, told the state-backed Shanghai newspaper The Paper in January that the company had received over 1,200 orders for the C919.

Zhang stated at the time that COMAC intended to boost yearly production capacity to 150 models within five years.

Asia, and particularly China, are significant goals for both Airbus and its American rival Boeing, who are trying to capitalize on the country’s expanding middle-class demand for air travel.

Airbus announced last month that it would increase its production capacity in China, securing a contract to build a second final assembly line for the A320 in Tianjin.

The first assembly plant in the northern city launched in 2008 and currently produces four A320s each month, with Airbus planning to expand that to six by the end of the year.

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