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China showcases commercial jet at Asia air show

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Comac C919 is a 200 seat narrow-body airliner built by the Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China.

HONG KONG (AP/PTI): China showcased its newest and biggest commercial plane Tuesday - a jetliner with as many as 200 seats that could boost the country's fledgling aviation industry to compete with Western rivals like Boeing Co. and Airbus SAS.

The single-isle C919 plane is scheduled to take its maiden voyage in 2014 before being delivered to buyers after 2016, according to Wang Wenbin, an official with the plane's manufacturer, state-backed Commercial Aircraft Corp. of China.

Work on the prototype began last week, he said. A large mockup of the jet was on display today at an Asian air show in Hong Kong.

The project is a major first step by China toward developing homegrown planes, along with the research and technology capabilities, for its fast-growing domestic market rather than relying on foreign companies. It would also pave the way for expansion into the international market.

Because China's nascent commercial aerospace industry still lacks expertise, the C919 initially will be outfitted with engines and other parts from foreign companies. Major suppliers have yet to be announced.

"The civil aviation industry is just starting to boom," said Wang, COMAC's assistant general manager. "Although we have ... experience on civil aircraft manufacturing, we still have a long way to go in comparison with those aviation industry superpowers such as the USA."

The C919 is designed for short- to medium-range hauls and can seat as many as 200 depending on the configuration.

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