A C919 large passenger jetliner takes off at Shanghai Hongqiao International Airport in Shanghai, east China, Dec 26, 2022. (PHOTO / XINHUA)

SHANGHAI – China Eastern Airlines on Monday launched test flights for the first ever C919 narrow-body passenger jet that would last 100 hours in all.

The airline received the C919 plane, China's first domestically built commercial aircraft, from its manufacturer Commercial Aircraft Corp of China (COMAC) on Dec 9.

The test flights, if successful, would pave the way for the commercialization of the C919, aviation experts said.

The first test flight saw the C919 take off from Shanghai Hongqiao International Airport and land at Beijing Capital International Airport on Monday afternoon.

Similar flights will ensue until mid-February and last 100 hours in all, covering 10 airports in nine provinces and municipalities across China, the airline said.

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"Test flights mark the trunk jetliner's shift from technological fulfillment to commercial operation," said Zheng Hongfeng, founder and CEO of aviation data and solution service provider VariFlight.

We are closer to the milestone moment of the C919's first commercial flight.

Qi Qi, Associate Professor, Guangzhou Civil Aviation College

Comparable to the Airbus A320 and the Boeing B737 series, COMAC's C919 is expected to break the duopoly of Boeing and Airbus in both domestic and global markets.

"Commercial operations of the C919 will provide air travelers with a brand new option," said Lin Zhijie, an aviation analyst.

China's civil aviation market is seeing rapid recovery and projected to become the world's largest commercial aircraft market that will likely need up to 400 narrow-body jets annually in the post-COVID era, said Lin, who is also a columnist at carnoc.com, one of China's biggest civil aviation websites.

The current round of test flights will verify the reliability of the preparations done by China Eastern for the C919. Successful test flights will confirm that the built-in-China aircraft can offer passengers a safe, efficient and comfortable journey.

"We are closer to the milestone moment of the C919's first commercial flight," said Qi Qi, an associate professor at Guangzhou Civil Aviation College.

Qi said the test flight is a critical step for an airline to prove its hardware and software support systems are capable of ensuring safe flights of an aircraft model.

"This is not only a test of China Eastern's commercial operational capability but also of the high degree of responsibility for the safety of the brand new aircraft model and its future commercial passenger flights," Qi said.

The large amount of data accumulated during the test flights would be provided to related divisions to assist the constant optimization and upgrade of the aircraft model, said China Eastern.

Each of the test flights would start from Hongqiao Airport in Shanghai but destinations would be different: Beijing, Chengdu of Sichuan province, Xi'an of Shaanxi province, Haikou of Hainan province, Wuhan of Hubei province, Nanchang of Jiangxi province, and Qingdao and Jinan of Shandong province.

The test flights will simulate the entire operation of flight planning and application, passenger boarding, pilot operation and aircraft maintenance among others. The jet will fly back to Shanghai the same day after each test flight.

The C919 passenger aircraft of China Eastern Airlines prepares for a test flight on Dec 26, 2022. (YIN LIQIN / CHINA NEWS SERVICE)After successful test flights, the Shanghai-based carrier is expected to receive a corresponding operation license from the Civil Aviation Administration of China, the CAAC News reported.

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The C919 made its maiden experimental flight in 2017, and is expected to be pressed into commercial operations this coming spring, by when passengers of China Eastern may fly from and to Shanghai, Beijing, Xi'an, Kunming of Yunnan province, Guangzhou and Shenzhen of Guangdong province, and Chengdu.

The first batch of nine pilots, 24 flight attendants and 13 maintenance personnel has completed training for this particular aircraft model, with a second batch of crew and staff members receiving training now. They would be qualified to meet the initial operation requirements of the C919, the carrier said.

So far, the C919 has netted 1,176 orders for COMAC from 28 clients at home and abroad, CCTV reported. In March 2021, China Eastern officially purchased the first batch of five C919s.

Contact the writer at wang_ying@chinadaily.com.cn