A C919 jet takes flight at the 14th Airshow China in Zhuhai, Guangdong province on Nov 9, 2022. (Photo by Wang Zhuangfei/China Daily)
Ma Zhijun will never forget the day he watched the C919, China's first large domestically developed jetliner, arrive in his home city of Guyuan, Ningxia Hui autonomous region.
A 10-year-old primary school student in a mountain village, Ma dreams of being a pilot. In December, he and his classmates were brought to Guyuan's Liupanshan Airport to witness the conclusion of the successful test flight from Shanghai of the first C919 aircraft to be delivered to China Eastern Airlines.
According to the Science and Technology Commission of Shanghai, China Eastern is expected to put the C919 into commercial operation in the spring. By the end of last year, 32 buyers had placed 1,035 orders for the aircraft.
"It was amazing to watch my country's first large passenger aircraft land in my hometown," said Ma, whose parents had painted a large plane on the walls of their house.
With a maximum flight range of around 5,000 kilometers, the C919 not only excited Ma and his peers, but also fueled a craze for aviation in the Liupanshan Mountains, which was a revolutionary base for the Communist Party of China and once an extremely impoverished part of Ningxia.
In Xiji county, about 60 km west of Guyuan, an aviation museum receives hundreds of visitors every day. It displays the history of the C919 and offers the public access to flight simulators.
"My 14-year-old daughter has been there three times to enjoy the simulator, and she's learned something new each time," said Liu Defei, a local government employee.
At his daughter's middle school, an aviation lab has also been set up for students to learn more about airplanes and aviation.
In addition, the Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China, which developed the C919, chose the Liupanshan Mountains as a training center for pilots due to its incidence of adverse weather conditions, including fog, strong winds and heavy snow, that make flying more difficult.
For the past few years, the company has stationed a team in Xiji to help the local government with rural vitalization and poverty alleviation efforts.
Products made by local women, such as embroidered shoes and pillows and paper cuttings, have been promoted by the company, increasing village incomes.
"We promote these products because local people make them with their hearts. That makes them more valuable," said Li Lin, a company official who works in Xiji.
Thanks to China's poverty alleviation campaign, Xiji emerged from poverty in 2020.