China’s C919 jetliner showcased at Singapore Airshow

Biennial air show opens to the public for the first time since the onset of the COVID-pandemic in 2020.

China’s C919 jetliner is envisaged as a rival to Airbus's A320 and Boeing's 737 MAX [File: Vincent Thian/AP]

China’s C919 jetliner is being showcased at Asia’s biggest airshow, as its Beijing-backed manufacturer seeks buyers for the country’s first homegrown passenger jet.

Chinese state-run aerospace firm COMAC has touted the C919 as a challenger to the A320 and the 737 MAX, manufactured, respectively, by long-standing industry leaders Airbus and Boeing.

The C919 made its inaugural flight outside China on Sunday at a media event ahead of the Singapore Airshow, which opened to the public for the first time since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.

China’s Tibet Airlines said on the sidelines of the show on Tuesday that it had finalised an order for 40 of the narrow-body jets, which are designed to carry up to 192 passengers and travel up to 3,500 miles (5,644km).

The C919, which has been flying commercially in China since May, has so far only been authorised to fly in its home country.

The biennial air show, which has more than 1,000 companies from some 50 countries in attendance this year, comes as Asia’s aviation sector is bouncing back from several years of dire business conditions due to the pandemic.

International air traffic recovered to nearly 89 percent of pre-pandemic levels in 2023, with the remaining gap mostly the result of China’s slow exit from pandemic curbs, according to International Air Transport Association (IATA) data.

Asia-Pacific airlines saw the biggest rise among regions, posting a 126 percent rise in traffic compared to 2022, according to the IATA.

Other aircraft expected to be displayed in Singapore include Airbus’s A350-1000 and the US Air Force’s B-52 Stratofortress.

US-based Boeing is not presenting any commercial aircraft as it grapples with the fallout of January’s near-catastrophe in which a 737 MAX 9 Alaska Airlines jet lost a door-sized section of the fuselage in mid-flight.

Russian companies that attended previous shows, including Russian Helicopters and Irkut, are not participating this year amid the war in Ukraine.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies