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PICTURE: C919 to take first flight after high-speed taxi tests

The C919 is moving closer to a first flight, and will be able to take to the skies once it completes high-speed taxi tests, says Comac.

The Chinese manufacturer started high-speed taxi tests over the weekend, as it hurries to get its indigenous narrowbody ready for a first flight during the first half of the year.

A panel of 25 aviation experts including those from the Civil Aviation Administration of China and AVIC did a technical review of the flight test aircraft on 18 April, and agreed that the jet will be ready for a first flight once it completes high-speed taxi tests.

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Comac

"This signifies that the C919 is one step closer to its first flight… and [high-speed taxi testing] is the last task that the C919 must complete before it can fly," says Comac.

Sources say that the target is now for the Chinese narrowbody to make its maiden sortie either in May or June, but this depends on whether Comac finds any problems during the tests. The rejected take-off test, they add, could also be challenging.

Aircraft 101 started taxi tests on 28 December, and it has taken more than three months for it to complete low- and medium-speed taxi tests. Its first low-speed taxi tests, sources say, threw up some "component-level issues", which while not insignificant, were not major roadblocks for the programme.

Comac is under tremendous pressure from Beijing which is paying close attention to the progress of the C919. Comac's chairman Jin Zhuanglong has however stressed that he would rather the programme be "a little late", but ensure safety and quality of the aircraft.

Comac was previously aiming for a first flight in late 2016, but this was later pushed to the first quarter of 2017. State-owned carrier China Eastern Airlines will be the first operator of the jet.

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