China announced the first delivery of its new domestically produced jetliner on Friday, with the aircraft due to make its commercial debut early next year.
Beijing hopes the C919 commercial jetliner will challenge foreign models like the Boeing 737 MAX and Airbus A320, although most of its parts are sourced overseas.
The first model of the narrow-body aircraft, which seats 164 passengers, was officially handed over to China Eastern Airlines during a ceremony at an airport in Shanghai, state media reported.
The move marked “an important milestone” in the journey of China’s aviation industry, state broadcaster CCTV said.
Footage released by CCTV on Friday showed the plane bearing the China Eastern insignia standing on a rain-swept airfield and gave a glimpse inside the plane’s cabin.
State-owned Commercial Aircraft Corp of China (COMAC) passed the airline a “commemorative key to the world’s first C919”, CCTV reported.
COMAC said at an airshow last month that it had secured orders for 300 C919s, but did not say whether the orders had been fully confirmed and gave no details on the value of the offers or delivery dates.
But if the orders are accepted, they would bring the number of known deals for the C919 to more than 1,100, based on figures from previous COMAC statements.
National media previously reported that four planes were to be delivered to China Eastern – the country’s second largest carrier by number of passengers – by the end of the year before entering service in the first quarter of 2023.
China struck a deal for Airbus planes worth $17 billion earlier this year, and the company began producing its A321 model in the northeast city of Tianjin last month.
The Boeing 737 MAX has been grounded in China since 2019 after two fatal crashes, although the aerospace giant said in July it could be approved for delivery by Chinese regulators this year.
But ongoing trade tensions between the United States and China and China’s worst commercial air disaster earlier this year involving a Boeing 737-800 have slowed progress.
(Except for the title, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)
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