C919 an undoubted achievement
C919, China's homegrown large passenger jet, takes off on its maiden flight at Shanghai Pudong International Airport on Friday. [Photo by Gao Erqiang/China Daily]
The debut flight of the C919, China's first homegrown large passenger plane, on Friday has been hailed both at home and abroad as a catalyst for accelerating the country's steps to transform its manufacturing sector.
However, there are also some who hold a suspicious stance toward the C919, arguing that many parts and components of the twin-engine Chinese jetliner are sourced from providers around the world and China has only assembled rather than manufactured the aircraft. Some even believe the C919's first test flight was not an achievement worth "showing off", given that China had already conducted a successful test flight of a bigger and more domestically manufactured airliner as early as 1980.
Such views represent a biased perception of China's C919 project. The manufacturing of commercial passenger planes is a highly mature and highly commercialized industry, and it is common for some of their parts and subsystems to be outsourced to manufacturers worldwide. Some of the C919's parts and components were outsourced, but more than 50 percent of them were domestically made and the Chinese research team made 102 technological breakthroughs in areas including the integrated design of engines and systems control. Boeing, one of the world's two major manufacturers of passenger aircraft, sources more than half of the parts and components used in many of its airplanes from foreign suppliers. Some Chinese enterprises in Xi'an and Shanghai have been manufacturing parts and systems for Boeing since the 1980s.
It is a common practice for passenger plane manufacturers to choose foreign parts and components suppliers as a way of lowering production costs. China does own independent intellectual property rights, but the C919's successful test flight does not mean that it will soon enter the market and begin competing with Airbus and Boeing. There is still a long way to go.