A state-owned manufacturer has unveiled the first plane produced by a Chinese initiative to compete in the market for large passenger jetliners. China is one of the biggest aviation markets but relies on Boeing and Airbus aircraft, and the multibillion-dollar effort to create the homegrown C919 jetliner is aimed at clawing back some of the commercial benefits that flow to foreign suppliers. The Commercial Aircraft Corp. of China showed off the first of the twin-engine planes in a ceremony attended by some 4,000 government officials and other guests at a hangar near Shanghai's Pudong International Airport on Monday.
The C919, which can seat up to 168 passengers, is meant to compete in the market for single-aisle jets dominated by the Airbus A320 and the Boeing 737. Most of its critical systems—including engines and avionics—are being supplied by Western companies or foreign-Chinese joint ventures. Its manufacturer, known as COMAC, says it has received orders from 21 customers for a total of 517 aircraft, mostly from Chinese carriers. The C919 is one of several initiatives launched by the ruling Communist Party to transform China from the world's low-cost factory into a creator of profitable technology—and since China's major airlines are state-owned, the party has a captive pool of potential customers that can be ordered to buy the C919. (Read more China stories.)