A single-aisle passenger jet that is being built by the Commercial Aircraft Corp. of China is set for its first test flight by the end of next month, according to Philippe Petitcolin, chief executive officer of Safran SA, an aircraft engine maker. Any problems with taxi trials may alter the schedule, Petitcolin said in an interview in Paris. The Chinese C919 aircraft will be powered by the LEAP engine, made by CFM International, an equal joint venture between Safran and General Electric Co.
China is developing the 168-seat plane with ambitions of eventually challenging the duopoly of Airbus Group SE and Boeing Co. in the global aviation market. The passenger jet project is part of an ambitious plan by President Xi Jinping to modernize China’s manufacturing. The government has identified aerospace among sectors that could help accelerate the process.
The chief engineer at COMAC, as the state-owned aircraft maker is known locally, said in October that the plane would take off by early 2017 at the latest after at least two delays since 2014. COMAC counts as many as 16 global corporations as suppliers, including GE and Honeywell International Inc., and has set up at least 16 joint ventures for avionics, flight control, power, fuel and landing gear. COMAC estimates the market potential for the plane at as much as 650 billion yuan ($96 billion).