- The C919 airliner has laid bare shortcomings in China’s aircraft industry
- Commercial aircraft makers will need to buy or partner to get foreign technology
- Military aviation has also reached the limits of reverse-engineering; deep reforms are now needed
On May 5, 2017, a 167-seat passenger jet took off from Shanghai’s Pudong International Airport – the first-ever flight by a Chinese-built airliner.
The C919’s maiden flight was a big moment for China’s nascent commercial air industry. The single-aisle, twin-engine aircraft, built by the Commercial Airline Corporation of China (Comac), is the first domestic answer to the world’s big-two manufacturers, Airbus and Boeing, which dominate the Chinese market for large jets. The flight was also notable because the capital-intensive aircraft industry has such high barriers to entry; no country or new company has entered the market since 1969.