China on Friday announced the first delivery of its new domestically-produced airliner, with the plane expected to make its commercial debut early next year.
Beijing hopes the C919 commercial jet will challenge foreign models such as the Boeing 737 MAX and the Airbus A320, although most parts will come from abroad.
The first model of the narrow-body jet, which can accommodate 164 passengers, was formally handed over to China Eastern Airlines in a ceremony at a Shanghai airport, state media reported.
The move marked “an important milestone” in China’s aircraft industry’s journey, state broadcaster CCTV said.
Footage broadcast by CCTV on Friday showed the plane carrying the China Eastern decal standing at a rain-flooded airport and gave a glimpse of the plane’s cabin.
The state-owned Commercial Aircraft Corp of China (COMAC) gave the airline a “commemorative key for the world’s first C919,” CCTV reported.
COMAC said at an air show last month it had secured orders for 300 C919s, but did not clarify whether the orders had been fully confirmed and did not provide details on the value of the deals or delivery dates.
But if the orders go through, they would bring the number of known deals for the C919 to more than 1,100, based on figures from previous COMAC statements.
Domestic media previously reported that four aircraft were expected to be delivered by the end of the year to China Eastern, the country’s second-largest airline by passenger numbers, before entering service in the first quarter of 2023.
China signed a $17 billion deal for Airbus jets earlier this year, and the company began production of its A321 model in the northeastern city of Tianjin last month.
The Boeing 737 MAX has been grounded in China since 2019 after two fatal crashes, though the aerospace giant said in July it may be approved for delivery by Chinese regulators this year.
But ongoing trade tensions between the US and China and China’s worst commercial airline disaster earlier this year involving a Boeing 737-800 have slowed progress.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is being published from a syndicated feed.)
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