China unveils jet to rival Boeing and Airbus

BEIJING, Nov 16, 2010 (AFP) - China has unveiled its first large domestically produced passenger jet, which aims to compete with Airbus and Boeing in the global aviation market, state media reported Tuesday.

The C919 prototype made its debut at an aviation exhibition in the southern province of Guangdong, and three major state-owned airlines were due to sign deals to buy the planes on Tuesday, the official China Daily said.

The report did not disclose the names of the customers, but China's three main state-owned carriers are Air China, China Southern Airlines and China Eastern.

The aircraft will take to the air at the show being held in the city of Zhuhai, it said.

Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China (COMAC), the plane's manufacturer, has forecast demand for C919s in the domestic and overseas markets to hit 2,000, the report quoted COMAC vice president Wu Guanghui as saying.

The single-aisle jet, which seats between 168 and 190 passengers, is due to make a trial flight in 2014 and be delivered to clients in 2016. It is seen as a potential competitor to the Airbus A320 and the Boeing 737.

It is part of China's plan to break the duopoly of Airbus and Boeing in the production of large commercial aircraft, and could dampen prospects for the two industry giants in what will soon become the world's biggest aviation market.

Air traffic in China, which has doubled in the past decade, is again expected to double by 2020, with the number of airports growing from 160 to 240, according to forecasts drawn up by Airbus.

The head of China's civil aviation administration said last month that the country would have up to 5,000 aircraft to transport passengers and cargo by 2015, state media reported.

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