Beijing: China's ambitious plans to build the country's first large commercial jetliner to rival dominance of Airbus and Boeing have been delayed by a year to 2015 due to issues relating to technological expertise.
Official 'China Daily' here reported that based on the project's progress, it is impossible to make the maiden test flight in 2014 as planned.
The delay in maiden test flight of the 168 seater C919 - a symbol of national pride - was a major setback for the communist giant's aviation ambitions.
The first delivery of the C919, planned for 2016, may also be delayed, said an official with the Commercial Aircraft Corp of China, builder of the C919.
Zhang Yanzhong, director of the programme's advisory committee of experts and a member of the Chinese Academy of Engineering said the programme encountered difficulties due to the manufacturer's present level of technological expertise and experience building commercial aircraft, but that these are not major setbacks.
The plane was being with the assistance of Canadian aerospace and transportation company Bombardier Inc (BBD/B) Wang Ya'nan, deputy editor-in-chief of Aerospace Knowledge magazine, said it will take at least two to three years for domestic and foreign authorities to authenticate the airworthiness of the C919.
"The earliest time for its delivery to buyers is likely to be in 2018 or 2019," Wang said.
The C919 is not China's first attempt to build a large plane. From the early 1970s to the mid-1980s, China worked on the four-engine, narrow-body Y-10, but the project was eventually aborted after doubts over the aircraft's profitability and feasibility, although three prototypes had been manufactured.
"The C919 is hence the first, so it is logical that China may take a longer time to develop it," Wang said.
The biggest obstacle developers have to overcome is the propulsion system, he said.
"In addition, whether the test flight can be performed on schedule depends on the results of ground tests, which examine the performance of every system on the plane," he said.
Chinese airlines that placed orders for the jetliners said they will patiently wait for delivery. "Only one year delay is OK for us, as it will not have much adverse effect on the airline's operations," an official from a domestic airline said.
By the end of 2012, at least 15 companies, most of them Chinese, agreed to buy 380 of the aircraft.
China is building the plane as it tries to break the stranglehold of Airbus SAS and Boeing in the global market for aircraft of this size.
First Published: Wednesday, August 7, 2013, 15:48