ABOVE: Passengers wait to board the C919 at Shanghai Hongqiao Airport.

China’s first domestically produced passenger aircraft, the C919, has made its maiden commercial flight.

China Eastern Airlines flight MU919 took off from Shanghai Hongqiao Airport at 10:32 on Sunday 28 May with 128 passengers on board before touching down at Beijing Capital International Airport at 12:31, where it was greeted with a water salute.

The narrow-body, 164-seat aircraft (featuring eight business class and 156 economy seats) is manufactured by the Commercial Aviation Corp of China (COMAC) and is intended to rival the Airbus A320neo and Boeing 737 MAX single-aisle jet families. Launched in 2007, the first C919 rolled off the production line in Shanghai in November 2015 and completed its maiden flight in 2017. China Eastern Airlines officially signed a purchase contract for five C919s with COMAC in March 2021 and type certification was awarded in September 2022.

China Eastern Airlines took delivery of C919 B-919A in December 2022 in a delivery ceremony themed ‘flying together in the new era’. The development of a domestically-developed jetliner has “a great significance to promoting the cooperation and innovation of global industry supply chain, accelerating the supply-side structural reform of China’s civil aviation transportation market, and helping to build a new development pattern with mutual promotion of domestic and international double circulation,” note COMAC.

The type will now operate on China Eastern Airlines’ regular route between Shanghai and Chengdu. As one of the three largest state-owned airlines in China and the seventh largest airline in the world, with passenger volume amongst the top ten globally, the carrier will no doubt welcome the new addition to its fleet.

“The first commercial flight is a coming-of-age ceremony of the new aircraft, and C919 will get better and better if it stands the test of the market,” said Zhang Xiaoguang, director of marketing and sales at COMAC.