China Eastern Airlines yesterday signed an agreement to become the first carrier to take delivery of the domestically made C919 passenger aircraft.
The deal with Commercial Aircraft Corp of China (COMAC) will see the country's second-biggest airline start negotiations to firm up orders for five of the 168-seat planes within a year of its first test flight.
Wu Guanghui, COMAC's chief designer, said on Monday that the test flight could be conducted this year or early next.
In 2010, China Eastern signed an intention to buy 20 C919 aircraft.
The planemaker has also won commitments from a number of leasing companies, including 36 from CITIC Financial Leasing and 20 from SPDB Financial Leasing. COMAC now has orders and commitments from 23 customers for about 570 C919 aircraft, the planemaker said in a statement issued at the Zhuhai Air Show.
The company aims to tap the single-aisle C919 to compete with Boeing and Airbus in the medium-range aircraft market.