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This Chinese bird's a beauty

By Zhu Wenqian | China Daily | Updated: 2017-05-10 10:40

Last Friday, I realized even journalists, who are supposed to be dispassionate and objective while on duty, could get carried away by emotions. An overwhelming emotion and a sense of pride overcame me when I witnessed the momentous takeoff of China's first homemade large passenger aircraft, the C919, for its first test flight.

It's just about a year since I began covering the aviation industry as a reporter. When I started filing my reports, I was already a frequent flier, but didn't know much about the industry terminology. Perhaps, that's understandable for a woman in her 20s?

Within a few weeks, I began to track COMAC, the maker of the C919, closely. The more I learned about the company and its achievements, the more I found aviation fascinating. That spurred me to write numerous stories on the industry, including some on the possible time of the C919's first flight.

In a sense, the suspense was building all the while, and Friday was denouement time. The Shanghai sky was overcast and the air a bit smoggy, spiked with a cold wind. But none of that mattered really.

The gleaming, green-and-blue striped C919 rolled out on to the tarmac and parked quietly at Shanghai Pudong International Airport. This bird-what a beauty! Excitement erupted among the more than 3,000 spectators who were waiting with bated breath for the C919's much-anticipated maiden flight.

I noticed government officials, business executives, academics associated with COMAC, journalists and others among the large crowd. Everyone was taking pictures and videos with their mobile phones. As the C919 accelerated on the runaway, gained momentum with every second, and zoomed into the skies in a picture-perfect takeoff, everyone, including me, cheered and screamed.

As the plane disappeared from my sight within seconds, a flurry of thoughts and feelings filled my mind. The C919, I realized, is a symbol of China's industrial, manufacturing and ensemble tech prowess. Perhaps, it's pride of not just China but Asia, the East as a whole. Not many emerging markets boast such capabilities-after all, commercial passenger jet manufacture has been the preserve of Boeing and Airbus for so long.

To be sure, COMAC's passenger jet project still has a long way to go. For one, the C919 needs to be certified as airworthy by the regulator concerned. For another, stiff market competition awaits the new plane-it has to prove itself to be a safe, efficient and dependable aircraft.

Even as such thoughts raced through my mind, time-about 80 minutes-flew quickly too. The C919 returned from its successful test flight and landed safely. It taxied toward the spectators and halted in front of them. Everyone was standing on the chairs, trying to be taller than the rest, in order to capture better images.

I realized I wasn't the only journalist who was excited and emotional. An elated Wang Yanan, editor-in-chief of Aerospace Knowledge magazine, shared his vision for the future: "The Chinese aviation industry will likely grow from a manufacturing giant to an innovation power.

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