China now has its own plane: ‘But the most important parts are western’

China now has its own plane: ‘But the most important parts are western’

Flight MU9191 was private. The plane took off from Shanghai at 4:45 am. After 2 hours and 25 minutes, I landed in Beijing. The first medium-haul commercial flight of Chinese aircraft manufacturer Comac (Commercial Aviation Corporation of China) was successful.

C919 can accommodate 164 passengers. Reporter Roland Smid says the first flight to Beijing was not fully booked. There were about 30 real passengers on the plane. They were behind. Moreover, about 100 dignitaries from COMAC and politicians from the Chinese State Party traveled.

The flight was kept secret

Oddly enough, the first flight was kept secret for a long time. “We only heard about it last night,” says Smid. You’d expect hype, spectacle on such a first commercial flight. But China is not doing this on purpose. And this is because of fear. “The authorities still fear that something will go wrong and that this will lead to negative publicity.”

Initially, the C919 will mainly be used for flights within China itself. By Smid’s estimation, aircraft manufacturer Boeing from the United States and Airbus from Europe should not be afraid of competition. “We actually don’t know yet if the C919 will be sold abroad. The government will force airlines coming from China to buy these planes from COMAC.”

China’s Comac started building the C919 in 2008. The first prototype was ready in 2015. Dozens of test flights followed. The passengers were not on board at the time. Now he is, and on Tuesday reporter Roland Smid will fly himself in a C919, from Chengdu to Shanghai. “I am looking forward to this trip. It seems to me an interesting experience.”

Smith is not afraid. “Look, this plane has the same specs as a mid-range Airbus or Boeing. Key parts are Western. Like the engines and operating systems. It’s safe though.”

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