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China's own C919 commercial airliner, domestically produced, will be ready for export to overseas markets starting in 2016, after two years of test flights, said Wu Guanghui, the chief designer.
Wu, deputy general manager of the Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China and a member of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference National Committee, said the company had already received orders from the United States and Singapore, bringing the total number of domestic and overseas orders to 235.
A model of the C919 commercial airliner made by the Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China is on display at the Aviation Expo in Beijing on Sept 21. [Zhang Yu / Xinhua]
"The first plane will be off the assembly line as early as next year. Production on a much larger scale will take place in 2016, after two years of test flights," Wu said.
The narrow-bodied airplane can carry 168 passengers and has a maximum flight distance of 4,400 kilometers to "cover all domestic flight routes and as far as Southeast Asia", Wu said.
The first batch of the C919 planes will use the advanced LEAP-X1C engines, which are installed in Boeing and Airbus SAS aircraft.
The imported engine, jointly developed by General Electric and Safran SA, is expected to lower fuel consumption by 13 to 15 percent, Wu said.
However, development of a Chinese-made engine for the airliner is currently under way.
Wu said the company's domestically-made engine for the plane, codenamed "Yangtze 1000", will be installed later.
"In the future, C919s can carry either of the two engines. However, the plane will definitely have a Chinese heart," Wu said.
In 2010, at the China International Aviation and Aerospace Exhibition in Zhuhai, Guangdong province, the Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China received orders for about 100 units from domestic and overseas airlines, including Air China, China Eastern Airlines and GE Capital Aviation Services, according to China Economic Weekly.
However, the government won't need to solicit sales for the C919, since "it will enter market competition", Wu said.
"China's homegrown airliner is still at an early stage. It still needs time," he added.
Wu expects global demand for airliners to reach 20,000 over the next 20 years.
In 2030, the total number of commercial airliners globally will increase to 36,000, more than double the current figure of 17,600, according to the Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China.
According to an earlier report in China Daily, the corporation predicts in a 20-year industry forecast that passenger revenue per kilometer will increase by 4.9 percent annually.
About 4,700 of the new C919 aircraft, valued at about $500 billion, are likely to be delivered to Chinese carriers, which are expected to comprise 15 percent of the world's total number of commercial aircraft by 2030, compared with 9 percent today.
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