Sanjay Kumar Writes: Few days back China rolled out its first home-grown large passenger aircraft C919 out of assembly line in Shanghai. The C919 is developed by Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China, (COMAC). At the ceremony, C919 was towed beneath a banner with the phrase “a dream takes off”, truly the wings that are much needed by China to boost its economic growth and fly over the world.
The C919 is a twin-engine, narrow-body aircraft with seating capacity up to 168 people. It is similar in size to the Airbus 320 and Boeing 737 series of jets. It is expected to make its maiden flight in 2016 and begin test flights for three years before entering service in 2019. It has a flying range of up to 5,555 kilometres, with these parameters it is poised to compete head on with Airbus and Boeing. It will easily cover popular business and leisure routes from China such as Shanghai to Singapore and Beijing to Bangkok, thus ensuring acceptability in the growing Chinese aviation market.
The Chinese government wants to use this as a springboard to develop a nation-wide aviation industry and showcase to the world that it has human resource, technology, industry and the wealth to take on high-end equipment manufacturing. Aviation industry also reflects manifestation of a country’s industrial and technological strength. The C919 is one of the several initiatives launched by the Communist Party to transform China from the world’s low-cost factory into a creator of technologically superior equipment which till now was domain enjoyed by US and European nations.
Though most of the critical systems including avionics and engines are being supplied by Western companies or foreign- Chinese joint ventures, but surely in the years to come it is going to dent the duopoly enjoyed by Boeing and Airbus, US and European Group companies. It will be a real challenge for COMAC to break-in in aviation industry as it demands very high level of safety and reliability.
Critics may be sceptical of the project and its economic viability in view of large dependency on foreign suppliers for critical components, but once COMAC succeeds, it will also pave way for China’s next big leap into commercialisation of space.
The Dragon is slowly but steadily spreading its tentacles in the world market to ensure future economic growth and alongside eroding economic strength of its rivals. A country needs strong economy to sustain strong military for its global ambitions. This reflects on the China’s long term plan of sustained growth and containing the world through shear economic power, to make the world dependent upon China so much so that it’s national ambitions move on unchallenged.