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Chinese-Made Passenger Jet Takes Off For Its First Test Flight

A Chinese-made C919 passenger jet takes off on its maiden flight at Pudong International Airport in Shanghai on Friday. It was scheduled to fly in 2014 but manufacturing problems delayed production.

China — which has long had a goal of breaking into the Western-dominated aircraft market — on Friday tested its first large passenger jetliner.

The C919, made by state-owned Commercial Aircraft Corp. of China Ltd., or Comac, took off from Pudong International Airport in Shanghai.

The new plane is expected to compete with the Airbus A320 and Boeing's 737. The lucrative narrow-body market accounts for more than 50 percent of the aircraft in service worldwide.

The C919 has been beset by delays: It was expected to first fly in 2014 and be delivered to buyers in 2016. Comac officials blamed the delays on manufacturing problems, but they are looking forward to a brighter future.

The Associated Press reports:

"Bao Pengli, deputy director of Comac's project management department, said Thursday the manufacturer planned to make two planes a year from now to 2019 to obtain proof of safe flight, before any mass production would be started.

"Comac says it has 570 orders, mostly from state-owned Chinese airlines. A total of 23 domestic and foreign customers have placed orders. The handful of foreign customers includes GE Capital Aviation Services and Thailand's City Airways.

"The plane can come with 155-175 seats and has a standard flight length of 2,530 miles."

Over the next 20 years, the global jet market is estimated to be worth $2 trillion.

China's new jet, however, likely faces a lengthy journey from first flight to commercial usage.

A similar thing happened to China's first domestically made jet. The twin-engine ARJ-21, flew its passengers in June 2016, eight years after its first test flight.

The smaller regional jet is a rival to aircraft made by Bombardier of Canada and Brazil's Embraer SA.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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