The sky is the limit for China’s home-grown jet

Updated 2017-10-10 09:33:53 Shanghai Daily
Zhang Miao (left) and Zhang Xijin discuss the design of China’s C919 jetliner. (Xinhua)

Zhang Miao (left) and Zhang Xijin discuss the design of China's C919 jetliner. (Xinhua)

The C919, China's first domestically developed narrow-body twin-jet airliner, caught the world's attention late last month after completing its second test flight from Pudong International Airport.

The C919 single-aisle aircraft made its maiden flight from the same airport on May 5, flying north to Chongming Island and over Nantong in neighboring Jiangsu Province, where it circled awhile before heading home.

The second flight — at two hours and 46 minutes — lasted twice as long. During the flight, the plane completed its first test of lowering and lifting its landing gear in the air, among other missions, according to the Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China (COMAC).

A day after the flight, COMAC and partner United Aircraft Corp of Russia announced that the first long-haul jet developed jointly by both countries will be named CR929, symbolizing the "enduring cooperation of the two sides."

The wide-body jet will seat 280 and have a range of up to 12,000 kilometers. It is scheduled to make its maiden flight in 2025 and begin deliveries in 2028, according to the China-Russia Commercial Aircraft International Corp, a joint venture based in Shanghai's Free Trade Zone.

In terms of global aviation, China is thinking big. It has been on a more than three-decade quest to rise to the ranks of nations capable of designing and manufacturing commercial aircraft.

"The C919 marks a new high for China's aircraft-making," said Cheng Bushi, 87, the deputy designer of the Y10, China's first commercial jet, designed in the 1970s. The Y10 with 125 seats flew for more than 170 hours in test flights between 1980 and 1984, but the project was scuttled before reaching commercial viability because of economic and political factors.

Despite setbacks and frustrations, China's commercial aircraft industry has never looked back. Its progress has been supported by thousands of engineers and aircraft designers.

COMAC was established in Shanghai in 2008 to take charge of developing the C919 project. Though the company is relatively new, many of its senior engineers are veterans of China's aircraft ambitions.

Zhang Xijin, 83, his son Zhang Miao and Zhang Miao's apprentice Ma Tuliang are the famous "three-generation trio" at COMAC, who are working together on the C919 project.

Zhang Xijin, a famous aerodynamic specialist, served in a senior position in the COMAC Shanghai Aircraft Design and Research Institute. He took part in the design of eight Chinese aircraft, including the ARJ21, the nation's first domestically developed regional jet.

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