By Arthur Dominic J. Villasanta , | April 19, 2017
The first flight for China's new low cost jet airliner -- the COMAC C919 -- is tentatively scheduled for May.
The C919 will also be the largest commercial airliner designed and built in China since the defunct Shanghai Y-10 that first flew in 1980.
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The C919 this week began a series of high-speed taxiing tests, the last step before its maiden flight. This flight was originally scheduled for June but reports in state-owned media say it could be advanced to May.
A joint project of state-owned Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China Ltd (COMAC) and Irish low-cost airline Ryanair, the C919 has been enthusiastically welcomed by China's aviation industry. COMAC announced that 21 domestic customers placed orders for more than 566 aircraft as of this year. Of the total orders, 99 are firm orders while 227 are options.
The C919 might enter commercial service as early as 2019. The airliner is a family of 158- to 174-seat narrow-body twin-engine jet airliners.
First deliveries of the C919 are scheduled for late 2018. The roll-out for the C919 was held in Shanghai on Nov. 2, 2015.
COMAC plans to initially produce five to 10 C919's every year, subsequently increasing the number to 150 C919s. It plans to manufacture up to 2,300 aircraft of the C919 family.
Interestingly, the C919's advanced aerodynamics was engineered with the help of the Tianhe-2 supercomputer, the world's fastest supercomputer from 2013 to 2015 until it was surpassed by another Chinese supercomputer, the Tianhu SunwayLight.
The first C919 came off the assembly line in September 2015 with no engines installed. The C919 was originally due to fly in 2015 but was hit by delays blamed on manufacturing problems.
The C919 is also part of China's efforts to develop a homegrown aviation industry. China currently relies heavily on foreign-made aircraft for most of its needs.
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