China's first large homemade passenger jet to fly in 2017

FILE - In this Monday, Nov. 2, 2015 file photo, the first twin-engine 158-seater C919 passenger plane made by The Commercial Aircraft Corp. of China (COMAC) is pulled out of the company's hangar during a ceremony near the Pudong International Airport in Shanghai, China. After years of delays, China's first large homemade passenger jetliner will take to the air for its maiden flight in the first half of this year, state media reported Monday, Feb. 6, 2017. (AP Photo, File)

Chinese state media say the country's first large homemade passenger jet airplane will take to the air for its maiden flight in the first half of this year

BEIJING — After years of delays, China's first large homemade passenger jetliner will take to the air for its maiden flight in the first half of this year, state media reported Monday.

State-owned aircraft maker Commercial Aircraft Corp. of China Ltd., or Comac, based in Shanghai, has nearly completed work on the 175-passenger C919, the ruling Communist Party newspaper People's Daily reported.

The C919 was originally due to fly in 2015, but has been beset by delays blamed on manufacturing problems. It is now scheduled to enter service in 2019, aimed at competing with the Airbus A320 and Boeing 737, along with the Russian Irkut MC-21.

Airbus and Boeing say the market for new aircraft will be worth more than $5 trillion over the next 20 years. Industry experts say China faces a tough slog capturing a significant share of that market, even with government support. Comac has 517 orders for the C919.

Company officials couldn't immediately be reached.

The C919 is part of China's efforts to develop a homegrown aviation industry in one of the world's biggest and fastest-growing air travel markets. China currently relies heavily on foreign-made aircraft.

Last June, the ARJ21-700, China's first homemade regional jet, made its debut flight carrying 70 passengers. The jet is one of a series of initiatives launched by the party to transform China from the world's low-cost factory into a creator of profitable technology in aviation, clean energy and other fields.

The ARJ21, also made by Comac, is a rival to aircraft made by Bombardier Inc. of Canada and Brazil's Embraer SA.

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