To the south of Shanghai's Pudong International Airport is a 1,620 hectare (4,000 acre) site reserved for Comac's new final assembly centre.
An elaborate model sits in a temporary office on the site, detailing the layout of the future aircraft factory. It has 11 hangars for the assembly of both single-aisle and double-aisle aircraft, eight office buildings, and even a railway line for the easy transportation of parts and subassemblies.
Since the 2010 ground breaking ceremony, 600 workers from five different construction firms have worked feverishly to get the site ready in time to help the C919 meet its 2014 first flight target. At least four hangars are in various stages of completion.
China's commitment to the programme is unwavering
The world is closely watching the C919 programme, and the Chinese know what is at stake in terms of prestige. Still, they recognise their limitations, such as a lack of experience, aviation talent and infrastructure.
While many have criticised the programme, dismissing the C919 as a competitor to the Airbus A320 and Boeing 737, let alone their re-engined successors, the Chinese look beyond that. They are in for the long haul and they have never been more focused.
"This is not a 100m dash," a Comac official put it succinctly during Flight International's recent visit to the final assembly centre. This is the first time Comac has shown the site to a foreign journalist.
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