SHANGHAI/BEIJING, May 28 (Xinhua) -- The C919, China's self-developed large passenger aircraft, successfully completed its first commercial flight from Shanghai to Beijing on Sunday, marking its official entry into the civil aviation market.
The flight, operated by China Eastern Airlines, took off as MU9191 at 10:32 a.m. from Shanghai Hongqiao International Airport with 128 passengers on board.
The plane was greeted with a water salute after touching down at Beijing Capital International Airport at 12:31 p.m.
"The commercial operation of the C919 means that for the first time, China's civil aviation market has got the country's self-developed trunk jetliner," said Wei Yingbiao, vice president of the Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China, Ltd. (COMAC), developer of the C919.
Excitement and joy filled the cabin of Sunday's flight MU9191. Waving small Chinese national flags, passengers sang songs to celebrate this special occasion for them and for the country's aviation industry.
A passenger surnamed Li said he was satisfied with the trip. "The experience was comfortable. I didn't hear much noise, and the aisle and the seats are spacious."
With eight business seats and 156 economy seats, this single-aisle C919 aircraft has various passenger-friendly features, such as a 2.25-meter-high aisle ceiling and drop-down overhead bins. The middle seat of the economy class is 1.5 cm wider than its neighboring seats.
Passengers were served a themed meal. On top of the pudding were printed the image of the airplane and red patterns showing "the world's first C919" in both Chinese and English.
The same patterns can be seen on the body of the aircraft.
The C919 aircraft flown on Sunday will go into initial commercial operation on China Eastern Airlines' Shanghai Hongqiao-Chengdu Tianfu route. With more delivered, the C919 will gradually fly on more routes, said Feng Dehua, deputy general manager of the airline.
China Eastern Airlines and COMAC have signed a purchase contract for five C919 planes, which will be based mainly in Shanghai after delivery. The second one is expected to be delivered in mid-June.
"The first commercial flight is a coming-of-age ceremony for the new aircraft," said Zhang Xiaoguang, director of the marketing and sales department of COMAC.
Since the C919 project was launched in 2007, it has undergone a long journey of design, manufacture, flight tests, and eventual commercialization. A total of nearly 300,000 people have participated in the aircraft's development.
In November 2015, the first C919 aircraft rolled off the production line in Shanghai. In 2017, the plane conducted a successful maiden flight.
In the following years, the plane carried out various flight tests in different locations and environments to comprehensively verify its safety, reliability and performance.
In September 2022, the C919 obtained the type certificate issued by the Civil Aviation Administration of China, marking a key step toward its commercial operation.
In December 2022, China Eastern Airlines received the first C919 aircraft delivered worldwide.
So far, the C919 has gained orders for 1,061 planes from various customers, said COMAC.
"The C919 trunk jetliner will surely have a broad market prospect with its adaptability, technology and performance," said Zhang.
China has a massive civil aviation market with great potential. According to a market forecast released by COMAC in late 2022, over the 2022-2041 period, China's civil aviation market will receive 9,284 new planes, including 6,288 single-aisle jetliners.
By 2041, China is expected to be the world's largest single-country civil aviation market, said the forecast.
Wu Guanghui, chief designer of C919, also took Sunday's flight. "After entering the market, the C919 has to stand the test of the market. I hope to see continuous improvement in its performance," he said.
(Video reporters: Di Chun, Jia Yuankun, Wang Xiunan, Ju Huanzong, Dingjing; Video editors: Hong Ling, Luo Huo, Liu Xiaorui, Li Ziwei)