China moved closer to making its own large passenger jetliner as the first large part of the domestically developed C919 rolled off the assembly line on Thursday.
The forward fuselage, or front section, of the airplane, which typically includes the first-class cabin, will be delivered to the Commercial Aircraft Corp of China soon for its C919 narrow-body airliner, the county's latest attempt to break the Airbus and Boeing duopoly. The aircraft is set to compete against the Airbus A320, the Boeing 737 and the Irkut MS-21.
The component was developed and manufactured by Hongdu Aviation Industry Group in Jiangxi province, a subsidiary of Aviation Industry Corp of China, the nation's leading aircraft maker.
It consists of more than 1,600 parts and is made of third-generation aluminium-lithium alloy, used for the first time in a commercial aircraft in China, Hongdu said in a statement.
The cutting-edge alloy will help to improve the aircraft's structural strength and reduce its overall weight, it added.
The company became the sole supplier of forward fuselage and rear fuselage components for the C919 in May 2009. It began to produce forward fuselage parts in December 2011 and allocated substantial resources and personnel to the research and development of new techniques, advanced materials and equipment for the project, the statement said.
"It will take one month before this part can be delivered to COMAC because it has to pass through civil aviation authorities' airworthiness certification procedures," said Liu Ruosi, a structure engineer with the Chinese aircraft corporation.
"The rear fuselage is still under development, and the technical complexity is higher than that of the forward part."
Shanghai-based COMAC has begun to manufacture the airframes of the first three C919s that will perform test flights, with the first one set to begin assembly by the end of this year, according to Wu Guanghui, deputy general manager of COMAC.
In addition, a large platform that tests the aircraft's flight controls and hydraulic systems was put to use in December.
COMAC has already received 400 orders from 16 domestic and foreign clients for the C919.
The aircraft's maiden flight is expected to take place in 2015, with the first deliveries scheduled for 2017.
It will be able to carry up to 168 passengers and has a maximum flight range of about 5,500 km.
The number of passenger aircraft in China will rise from 1,969 in 2012 to 6,494 in 2032, accounting for 17 per cent of the global total.
Chinese enterprises and individuals are expected to purchase 5,357 aircraft with at least 50 seats, worth $647 billion (S$808 billion), in that period, according to the aircraft corporation.