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Thomas Black

China Has Its Eyes on the Sky. Boeing and Airbus Beware.

The country’s certification of a domestic-made plane as airworthy is just the first step on a long road to crack the commercial market.

China's C919 Project Enters Intensive Flight Test Phase

Photographer: VCG/Getty Images

China has begun its long game to become a competitor in the commercial aircraft market by certifying a plane called the C919 as airworthy. It will be easy for Airbus SAS and Boeing Co., which have long dominated the market, to dismiss the aircraft as an inferior plane that took 14 years to get off the ground, but they should take the competitive threat seriously.

The single-aisle plane, which is built by Commercial Aircraft Corp. of China, or Comac, seats as many as 168 passengers and has an expected range of 2,500 nautical miles. That doesn’t compete well with Airbus’s A320neo single-aisle plane, which can fly as far as 3,900 nautical miles and typically seats up to 180. Boeing’s 737 Max 8 aircraft has a range of 3,550 nautical miles and has two-class seating of 178.