Comac will need to keep its C919 programme on track if it hopes to realise its ambition of capturing half of China's demand for narrowbody aircraft over the next 15 years.
The C919 is scheduled to have its first flight in 2014, followed by delivery in 2016.
If it keeps to this timeline, the Chinese airframer could possibly garner more orders from Chinese airlines that will need to plan the replacement of their narrowbody fleets during this period.
Flightglobal's Ascend Online database shows that there are 1,361 aircraft in the 120 to 169-seat segment operating in China. Of these, there are 528 Boeing 737-800s and 455 Airbus A320s.
There are also 55 of the older 737s operating in the country - 52 -300s and three -400s.
The oldest of the -300s was built in 1991 and is in operations with China Eastern Airlines' Yunnan branch. China Eastern Yunnan and China Southern Airlines own the majority of these older jets.
Comac, in its 20-year market forecast released last year, projects that China will require up to 3,000 single-aisle aircraft over the next 20 years.
Flightglobal's Ascend data shows that there are 340 narrowbody jets on order in the country, made up of six 737-700s, 200 737-800s, 119 A320s and 15 A319s. These aircraft will be delivered between 2013 and 2019.
This year alone, operators in the country are expecting to receive 92 of these aircraft on order, followed by a further 95 in 2014.
Thereafter, delivery will slow drastically to about 15 in 2018 and finally five in 2019. Aircraft delivered in 2016 and after will mostly go to ICBC Leasing.
This means that if Comac avoids massive delays to its 2016 delivery target, it could fill a need for narrowbody aircraft in the country from 2018 and beyond. Industry sources are, however, widely expecting the 2014 first flight target to slip. Looking at its ARJ21 regional jet, a programme which started over 11 years ago and is still undergoing certification, the C919 project is also expected to encounter delays in development and certification.
Airbus and Boeing are also going to persuade Chinese customers to order their re-engined variants - the A320neo is planned for service entry in 2015, followed by the 737 Max in 2017.
The duo will also have an advantage since airlines are more inclined to order from established airframers with a proven after sales track record rather than risk programme delays and poor customer support from a new airframer. Comac, however, has strong backing from the government, which means that the indigenous C919 jet will likely receive more support.
A tough battle for market share lies ahead but the good news, analysts say, is that there is room for all three airframers.
"Even with the C919 in production, the Chinese market will absorb significant numbers of western narrowbodies for years to come," says Raymond Jaworowski, senior aerospace analyst at Forecast International.
Comac has so far garnered 380 orders for its C919, mostly from local airlines and leasing companies.