China plans maiden flight of C919 jetliner around May 5: sources

FILE PHOTO: The first C919 passenger jet made by the Commercial Aircraft Corp of China (Comac) is pulled out during a news conference at the company's factory in Shanghai, November 2, 2015. REUTERS/Stringer

PARIS/SHANGHAI (Reuters) - China plans to stage the maiden flight of its C919 passenger jet on or around May 5, two people familiar with the project said.

Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China (COMAC) has completed ground-testing and is preparing the aircraft for its much-delayed debut flight, which could provide an historic boost to China’s efforts to compete with global aircraft makers.

The C919’s maiden flight has been delayed at least twice since 2014 due to production issues.

China first gave the world a glimpse of the 158-seat plane in November 2015 at a roll-out ceremony in Shanghai.

The aircraft is a symbol of China's ambitions to break into a duopoly enjoyed by Western giants Airbus AIR.PA and Boeing BA.N. Russia is developing a similar jet.

China Eastern Airlines is the launch customer for the plane, which is powered by engines from French-U.S. supplier CFM International, jointly owned by General Electric and Safran.

In another sign of China’s growing presence in aviation, its safety certification authority will host foreign regulators and suppliers at a conference organized jointly with European safety authorities in Shanghai this week.

A third source said that COMAC had initially aimed to fly the C919 to coincide with the first such Chinese-European safety event but that the date had slipped into the first week of May.

Reporting by Tim Hepher and Brenda Goh; Editing by David Clarke and Hugh Lawson