ZHUHAI, China — The Zhuhai air show is showcasing China's ambitions to create Asia's first successful commercial airplane company in a challenge to Airbus and Boeing's long-standing domination of the industry.
Plane builder Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China Ltd. is offering VIP flights on its 70- to 110-seat ARJ21 jet, for which it has 240 orders including options and plans to begin delivering to customers late next year after repeated delays.
On Tuesday, the state-owned company, known as Comac, made a further splash with the announcement that its single-aisle C919 passenger jet had received 100 orders from Chinese airlines and an international customer, despite it still being in the design stage.
No details were given about how many planes were ordered by each customer or the prices they will pay, but company executives were quick to claim a breakthrough for the nation.
China launched its modern commercial aviation industry less than a decade back and two years ago reorganized it to create Comac to build the ARJ21 and develop the C919. That was part of an overall campaign to create Chinese industries able to compete at the global level, and also stands to give China bragging rights as the only Asian country to successfully produce commercial aircraft after attempts by Japan, South Korea and Indonesia failed to get off the ground.
"This is not only an economic exercise. This is also an exercise in patriotism," said Richard A. Bitzinger, an expert on the Chinese civil aviation industry at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore.
Key tests still lie ahead, with Comac yet to convince foreign airlines to place large orders.