The first large Chinese-made passenger jetliner completed its maiden test flight on Friday, a milestone in China's long-term goal to break into the Western-dominated aircraft market. The takeoff of the C919 brought cheers and applause from hundreds of invited guests at Shanghai Pudong International Airport and was broadcast live on Chinese state TV. The jet soon became invisible on a windy and polluted day in Shanghai, which was also in the path of dense sandstorms from the north. After the 1.5 hour flight was over, the test pilots came down smiling from the plane, wearing orange overalls with the Chinese flag, the AP reports.
With the flight, the official Xinhua News Agency said China had become "one of the world's top makers of jumbo aircraft," becoming the fourth large jet producer after the US, Europe, and Russia. China is touting the C919 as a rival to single-aisle jets such as the Airbus A320 and Boeing 737. It was originally due to begin flying in 2014 and be delivered to buyers in 2016, but has been beset by delays blamed on manufacturing problems. It's now unlikely to carry commercial passengers until at least 2019. Avation analyst Mohshin Aziz says it won't be clear for nearly a decade whether the C919 can make a dent in Airbus and Boeing's duopoly, though some of China's state-owned airlines will probably be forced to use it. (Read more aviation stories.)