China displays mockup of home-grown jetliner C919

HONG KONG: The Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China displayed a scale model of its jetliner C919, the country's first home-grown large commercial airliner, for the first time at the Asian Aerospace '09 on Tuesday.

With a scale of one to ten, the model was so far "the most precise one put up for public display," said Guo Bozhi, president of the Shanghai Aircraft Design and Research Institute, a unit of the Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China, or COMAC.

The mockup was displayed at a prominent position at the Asian Aerospace, Asia's leading air show, side by side with industry giants like Boeing and Airbus. Together with some ten other Chinese mainland-based manufacturers, suppliers and service providers at the show, it attracted attention of media from around the world.

"It's the first time that China has put a face in front of the global aviation industry," said Richard Thiele, global head of sales for Reed Exhibitions, organizer of the show.

COMAC has currently sent out requests for proposal, or RPFs, to over 100 potential suppliers, both domestic and international, and signed memorandums of understanding with nine domestic airframe suppliers. The company has been in touch with engine suppliers including General Electric, Rolls Royce and Pratt&Whitney, Guo said.

The Shanghai-based company has been using standard bidding process in line with international practices for the systems and equipment it needed for the C919 project, said Wang Wenbin, assistant general manager of COMAC.

COMAC was set up with state approval in 2008 to develop China's first home-grown jumbo jet. It has a registered capital of 19 billion yuan ($2.78 billion), with the State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission as the biggest shareholder.

The company has said the maiden flight of C919 was planned for late 2014, with delivery expected by 2016. It was intended as a single-aisle airliner to target the short and medium haul markets in eight to ten years from now, Wang said.

If successful, COMAC plans to produce 50 C919 aircraft each year at the early stage and annual production could reach 100 or even more at a later stage, depending on how it is received by the market, Guo said.

C919 has a standard range of 4,075 kilometers, and the extended range can reach a maximum of 5,555 kilometers. It has a designed capacity of 168 seats for the full economy class version and 156 seats for mixed class version.

Wang said China has been behind leading industry players in commercial airliner development and was aspiring to have its own home-made large commercial airliner.

COMAC planned to develop the C919 under the cooperation model involving suppliers and main manufacturers, and international partnerships are welcome, he said.

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