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China's first passenger plane to make maiden flight on May 5

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BEIJING (PTI): China's first domestically-built large passenger jet, touted to be a competitor to Boeing 737 and Airbus 320, is all set to make its maiden flight on May 5, it was announced Wednesday.

The C919 will depart from Shanghai Pudong International Airport on its first flight on Friday, the Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China (COMAC) said.

"If weather conditions are not suitable, the maiden flight will be rescheduled," COMAC said.

The C919 signals the country's entry into the global aviation market as a strong competitor, analysts said.

In 2007, plans to develop a Chinese-built large passenger jet were approved by the government. In November 2015, the first C919 jet rolled off the assembly line.

"Engineers have completed over 118 tests and are prepared for the maiden flight," COMAC said.

The plane passed expert technical appraisal this March.

It has 158 seats and a standard range of 4,075 kilometers. COMAC has received 570 orders from 23 foreign and domestic customers, including from China's national carrier Air China, and leasing company GE Capital Aviation Service, state-run Xinhua news agency reported.

Both Airbus and Boeing have assembly plants in China considering the growing demand for new aircraft.

Airbus had delivered 153 aircraft to Chinese operators in 2016, its seventh consecutive year of more than 100 deliveries, Airbus China said earlier this year.

A recent Boeing forecast said that China will need 6,810 new aircraft in the next 20 years at an estimated cost of USD one trillion.

By the end of 2016, twenty-one customers had placed orders for more than 500 C919 aircraft, and COMAC expects to sell at least 2,000.

China's first regional commercial aircraft, the ARJ21, began commercial operation in June 2016.

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