As China continues to make waves in the global commercial airliner market, the country conducted its first successful test flight Friday of the C919 passenger jet.
The aircraft, painted white, green and blue, took to the skies from Shanghai Pudong International Airport in eastern China.
After the 1 ½ hour flight was over, the test pilots came down smiling from the plane, wearing orange overalls with the Chinese flag.
Spectators take photos as they watch China's homegrown C919 passenger jet coming in for a landing on its maiden flight at Shanghai's Pudong airport. Chinese media report that a C919 will cost some $50-million, said to be less than half the price of an Airbus A320 or a Boeing 737.
The C919 will be able to carry up to 168 passengers.
Air China (601111.CN), China Eastern Airlines (600115.CN) and China Southern Airlines (600029.CN) together placed US$20 billion worth of orders for new aircraft previous year alone.
"You are going to have three big companies".
Orders have already been placed for more than 500 of the planes, with commitments from 23 customers, say officials, mainly Chinese airlines. Most domestic airlines are also backed by the government. The handful of foreign customers includes GE Capital Aviation Services and Thailand's City Airways.
The C919 carries 170 passengers and has a range of more than 5,500 kilometers, meaning it will match up against the Boeing 737 and Airbus A20 in a fast-growing aviation market.
The jet's development is a key step on the path laid out by Chinese leaders to transform the country into a creator of profitable technology. The flight lasted 90 minutes with the plane hitting a maximum speed of 170 knots. Boeing earlier predicted that China will need 5,110 new single-aisle airplanes through 2035.
While C919 is a home-grown aircraft, it has been dependent on foreign technology.
The committee has proven the C919 is technically airworthy but the jet is still subject to electromagnetic compatibility and taxiing tests before it takes to the air, state-run Xinhua news agency reported.
The C919 incorporates parts from over 30 global suppliers such as Honeywell International Inc. Failing to win FAA certification would restrict the sale of the aircraft to only domestic market and certain regional clients.
Comac, or Commercial Aircraft Corp. of China Ltd.
Aviation analyst Tom Ballantyne said that Friday's flight represented a "huge moment" for China.
His call to arms is emblazoned on the wall of the jet's production facility: "Accelerate the construction of the world's top aviation company and continue to make new contributions to develop a strong aviation industry". According to aircraft tracker Flightradar24, the plane flew over the Yangtze River estuary and headed due north.