China unveils jet at Comac

Direct News Source

08-Sep-2009 China unveiled the design of what will be its largest home-produced commercial jet at a Hong Kong air show on Tuesday, demonstrating the country's ambition to be a global aviation giant.

An arm of the state-owned Aviation Industry Corp of China (AVIC) exhibited a miniature of its C919 in Hong Kong, with some observers hailing the occasion as proof the fast-rising communist country has arrived in the industry.

'It's the first time that China has put a face in front of the global aviation industry,' said Richard Thiele of Reed Exhibitions, organiser of the Asian Aerospace International Expo and Congress, which began Tuesday.

The single-aisle aircraft was designed by Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China, or Comac, and is part of China's long-term plan to break the duopoly of Airbus and Boeing in the production of large commercial aircraft.

'We still have a long way to go in comparison with those aviation industry 'superpowers' such as the USA,' said Wang Wenbin, Comac's assistant general manager, at the show.

Mr Wang said the C919 project 'will set a landmark for the overall modernisation' of China, which has until recent years focused only on developing military aviation technology.

The jet, which Comac has said seats between 168 and 190 passengers, is due to make its maiden flight in 2014 and be delivered to clients in 2016, said Mr Wang. He also announced that the company had received a total of 208 confirmed and unconfirmed orders for its 70-seater ARJ21 - which stands for Advanced Regional Jet for the 21st Century - China's first home-made commercial plane.

Apart from Comac, another 10 Chinese companies - from suppliers to aircraft management firms - also debuted at the expo, the organiser said.

It is no coincidence the event is being held on Chinese soil. The three-day biennial meet, hailed as one of the world's most influential air shows, was moved from Singapore to Hong Kong in 2007 to be closer to mainland China, now seen as the world's fastest growing aviation market.

Mr Thiele, Reed's head of sales for aerospace and aviation, said despite airlines worldwide being hit badly by the global economic downturn, 10,000 visitors and 356 firms are expected to take part in Asian Aerospace.