China wants in on the large airplane business. Last August, the country unveiled plans for a project which promises to compete with the big boys: a jetliner called the C919.
The large aircraft will allegedly seat 190 passengers, and is China’s best hope for entering into the commercial passenger industry. China’s choice of strategy could offer a challenge for the EU’s Airbus and the US’ Boeing.
As the project is being developed, 2014 is the earliest for a maiden flight, and it is not likely to enter the market before 2016, according to China’s agenda. In regards to the new aircraft, both Boeing and Airbus have warned that the engineering of such a large plane may take more than 10 years to fine tune. Case in point, seasoned and successful aircraft constructor Boeing is currently experiencing structural difficulties and has postponed test flights for its new Dreamliner, which promises to slash 20% the operational costs.
According to Chen Jin, sales chief of C919 builder Commercial Aircraft Corporation, the Asian country plans to deliver the narrow-body, twin-engine, aircraft at an average of $50 million less than a Boeing and Airbus comparable plane, as well as it creating 12-15 percent less emissions thanks to the use of lightweight carbon composite instead of steel.
Likewise, both Airbus and Boeing have delayed projects which would see more fuel-efficient, narrow-body aircrafts to replace the aging A320 and 737 because both companies say that composite materials alone cannot lead to enough fuel-efficiency savings to offset the billions of dollars spent on design.
Despite no experience in the production of large passenger aircrafts of composite materials, the Chinese appear confident.
Cheng Zhong, a mechanical engineer employed by a company supplying China’s aerospace sector with composites, claimed that China is presently doubling its composite material output every year.
Chinese aviation officials have said that the C919 would be considered similar in range and capacity to both the Boeing 737, which is the most popular jetliner in the world, and its rival, the Airbus A320.