China’s home-grown C919 passenger jet took to the skies on its long-delayed maiden flight today (Friday, May 5).

The flight is seen as a major step for China as it looks to raise its profile in the global aviation market and boost high-tech manufacturing at home.

The aircraft sped along the tarmac at Shanghai’s international airport and lifted off under overcast skies in front of thousands of dignitaries, aviation workers and enthusiasts.

The narrow-body jet, which will aim to compete with Boeing’s 737 and the Airbus A320, carried a crew of five pilots and engineers. China’s state broadcaster CGTV (China Global Television Network) posted live footage of the plane, which had no passenger seats installed for the maiden flight.

The jet, made by state-owned Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China (Comac), is a symbol of China’s ambitions to push into a global jet, market estimated to be worth $2 trillion over the next two decades, as well as the government’s broader “Made in China 2025” plan to spur home-made products, from medicines to robots.

Analysts say China’s determination to build its aviation expertise is clear, and Comac is already working with Russia’s United Aircraft Corp. to develop a bigger, twin-aisle airliner, dubbed the C929.

Jeegar Kakkad, chief economist and director of policy for ADS Group, the trade association representing aerospace companies in the UK, told Bloomberg: “They’re serious about learning how to produce parts – and producing high quality aircraft parts. There is a huge learning curve for them.”

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