China's aviation future rests with the Comac C919 aircraft

China's aviation future rests with the Comac C919 aircraft

On May 5, 2017, at Shanghai's Pudong Airport, a new passenger airplane took off on its first flight. The Comac C919 that soared into the sky over eastern China that day wasn't trying to set any records in size or speed or to demonstrate amazing new aviation technologies to the world. Rather, the slim white airliner with the lime green tail was built to send the world a simple message from the Chinese government: China can design and build a commercial aircraft. It won't seriously challenge the Boeing-Airbus duopoly for now, but that's not really the point.To get more Comac news, you can visit shine news official website.

It may sound like a bizarre move for a rapidly growing power like China, which in 2019 was the world's second largest market for commercial air traffic. But the country sees plenty of upside in its attempt to break into an enormously complicated and fiercely competitive industry valued at almost $200 billion. More than just a vehicle to fly the Chinese flag, the C919 is both a first step and an insurance policy.

Even if it never flies outside of China, the plane is part of the country's long-term goal to become a leader in technology and heavy manufacturing. Selling those goods to the world is one part of this effort, but moving beyond the production of cheap commodity products also would allow the country to become more self-sufficient in everything from telecom equipment to transportation. And by building its own aircraft industry -- an area where the country remains dependent on Western suppliers -- China will keep billions of dollars at home and have its own airliner free of tariffs.

If it ever happens. Scott Kennedy, a senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C., calls the C919 a practice plane that has little chance of commercial success."They've decided to spend as much as needed and take as long as necessary until they have their own plane that can rival Boeing and Airbus," Kennedy says. "The political ambition from the top leaders is that China has its own aircraft because, in their mind, great nations have their own airliners."

Advancing the C919 to the point where it can even carry passengers will be arduous. The airliner is years behind schedule -- though it was supposed to first fly six years ago, it's not expected to enter service until late 2021 at the earliest. It's also dependent on parts made in the US and Europe, and it brings nothing that similar aircraft from Boeing and Airbus don't already have.

"I would describe [the C919] like a Nokia phone competing against Apple's iPhone and Samsung's Galaxy S," says Shukor Yusof, a Singapore-based aviation analyst at Endau Analytics. "It's just not 'cool.'"

The C919 also faces significant regulatory hurdles in getting certified to fly outside of China and in gaining the confidence of airlines that aren't run by the Chinese government. But through its manufacturer Comac, China is pushing ahead to a bigger aviation future, even if it takes a generation.