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China to launch test flights for C919 plane

[SHANGHAI] State-owned Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China (COMAC) has completed the basic assembly of its medium-range C919 large passenger aircraft and is expected to launch test flights this year, the official Xinhua news agency reported on Monday.

It said COMAC, which is touting the aircraft as China's answer to passenger planes from Boeing Co and Airbus Group NV, had secured 450 orders from 18 customers. The agency did not give further details and COMAC executives were not immediately available for comment during the Chinese Lunar New Year holiday.

China is keen to develop a successful commercial aircraft to prove it can match the United States and Europe. But it has been held back by inexperience, a shortage of local aerospace design and engineering talent, as well as a lack of home-grown companies with the technology to help drive the project.

Airbus has forecast China's domestic aviation market to become the world's biggest in the next decade.