China secures 100-aircraft order for its first commercial jetliner

China yesterday announced a 100-plane order for its first commercial jetliner, a first step in its ambitions to challenge Airbus and Boeing for a slice of a global market worth $1.7 trillion.

State-owned COMAC, or Commercial Aircraft Corp of China, unveiled the orders at the country’s largest air show yesterday, ending a dearth of orders in the two years since it launched designs for the 150-seat C919.

As air travel expands with a billion Chinese predicted to be flying for business and leisure early next decade, China wants to reduce its reliance on foreign planes and foster a domestic industry worthy of a country capable of putting a man in space.

COMAC said the orders came from four Chinese airlines, which was no surprise given government encouragement for the project, but also the leasing arm of General Electric, which will supply the C919 engines together with France’s Safran.

It is the first time buyers have committed to the aircraft, which COMAC expects to start building next year, followed by a maiden flight in 2014 and first delivery in 2016.

Officials did not give a value for the deal or break down the orders by airline. A similar deal for Airbus or Boeing jets would be worth about $7bn.