China's first domestically produced single-aisle passenger jet, the C919, is expected to take to the sky for its maiden flight on Friday, as the country endeavours to meet soaring domestic travel demand and break the global market duopoly of Boeing Co and Airbus Group SE.
The debut flight is set to take place at Shanghai Pudong International Airport, subject to weather conditions, the C919's Shanghai-based manufacturer, Commercial Aircraft Corp of China, said on Wednesday.
Soon after it was established in 2008, COMAC began the research to develop the twin-engine C919, which would be used for medium-haul flights with 158 to 174 seats. It is expected to compete with the updated Airbus A320 and the new-generation Boeing B737.
China has its own military and regional aircraft manufacturers, and the development of the airplane serves as a key index to assess the country's industrial and technical manufacturing capacity.
"The first flight of the C919 signals that China will be able to make a significant breakthrough for the country's civil aircraft manufacturing industry, and it could have the opportunity to break the monopolies of Boeing and Airbus," said Lin Zhijie, an aviation industry analyst and columnist at Carnoc.com, a large Chinese civil aviation website.
Despite the promising future, Lin said the C919's entry to the market won't occur soon. The date it goes into operation is expected to be between 2020 and 2022.
So far, COMAC has received 570 orders for the C919 from 23 clients, including domestic airlines such as the State-owned Air China, China Southern and China Eastern; and private airlines Hainan Airlines and Sichuan Airlines. China Eastern will be the first to take delivery.
Overseas orders account for about 10 per cent of the total, including airlines from Germany and Thailand and others from the Asia Pacific region and Africa.
Boeing earlier predicts that China will need 5,110 new single-aisle airplanes through 2035, accounting for 75 per cent of the total delivery for China from global aircraft manufacturers.
"While the programme has faced its share of challenges－like any development programme of this size－the results speak for themselves," said Steven Lien, president of Honeywell Aerospace Asia Pacific, one of the C919's suppliers.
"The C919 is a sleek, modern and efficient airplane. It is ready to compete on a global scale, heralding China's ambitious plans to grow and develop its domestic air transportation industry with the help of international partners."
COMAC said last week it has started the research to develop a widebody commercial jet with Russia for delivery within 10 years.