(170920) -- SHANGHAI, Sept. 20, 2017 (Xinhua) -- Photo taken on May 4, 2017 shows China's large passenger jet, the C919, at the Flight Test Center of Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China (COMAC) in Shanghai, east China. The orders for the C919 reached 730 on Sept. 19 after four customers signed purchase plans with the COMAC, the Shanghai-based manufacturer of the C919. (Xinhua/Ding Ting) (ry)
JOHANNESBURG - China's domestically developed C919 passenger jet completed its second test flight yesterday, the jet’s maker said, but the duration and near five-month gap since its first flight have raised questions over whether its latest delivery target can be met.

The narrow-body C919, which will compete with Boeing’s 737 and the Airbus SE A320, is a symbol of China’s ambition to muscle into a global jet market estimated to be worth $2trillion (R27trln) over the next 20 years.

However, the programme has faced lengthy delays and missed its original target of delivery to customers by 2016 - a date reportedly pushed back to 2020. Sales to date have been restricted largely to its home market because it has yet to be certified by regulators in the US and Europe.

Yesterday’s flight was the second for the initial C919 test model, whose maiden flight was on May 5. Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China (Comac) said the plane reached an altitude of 10000 feet during a flight that took off from Shanghai’s Pudong Airport.

“Various elements of the test flight, including with the raising/lowering of the landing gear, were all completed smoothly,” Comac said. The 166-minute flight time was more than double the maiden flight of 80 minutes, but 54 minutes shorter than plans detailed in an article published by state-backed news website ThePaper.cn earlier.

Comac did not immediately reply to questions on whether the flight was shorter than planned.