YINCHUAN, Feb. 5 (Xinhua) -- Ma Zhijun will never forget the day he watched the C919, China's first indigenously-developed large jetliner, arrive in his home city of Guyuan, northwest China's Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region.
Ma, a 10-year-old primary school student in a mountain village, dreams of being a pilot. In December last year, he and his classmates were brought to the Liupanshan Airport, located in Guyuan, to witness the successful test flight, from Shanghai to Ningxia, of the first C919 aircraft delivered to China Eastern Airlines.
According to the Science and Technology Commission of Shanghai, China Eastern Airlines is expected to put the aircraft into commercial operation by the spring of 2023. By the end of 2022, the C919 had gained 1,035 orders from 32 customers.
"It was amazing to see my country's homegrown large passenger aircraft come to my hometown," said Ma, whose parents had painted a big plane on the walls of their house.
With a maximum flight range of over 5,000 km, the C919 not only excited Ma and his peers for several days, but also fueled a craze for aviation in the Liupanshan Mountain region, which was a revolutionary base of the Communist Party of China and once a highly impoverished area in Ningxia.
In Xiji County, about 60 km west of Guyuan, an aviation museum received hundreds of visitors every day. It displays the research and development history of the C919, and offers access to simulator facilities for the public.
"My 14-year-old daughter has been here three times, experiencing piloting simulation, and 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 where students can learn more about airplanes and aviation.
Moreover, the Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China, Ltd., which developed the C919, chose the Liupanshan Mountain as a training base for pilots, due to its adverse weather conditions that make flying more difficult, such as fog, strong winds and heavy snow.
Over the past few years, the company has stationed a team in Xiji County to help the local government with rural revitalization and poverty alleviation efforts.
Products made by local women such as embroidery, embroidered shoes and pillows, paper cuttings and Chinese herbal medicines, were funded and promoted by the company, increasing the income of the villagers.
"We promote these products because they are made by local people with their hearts. It's more valuable," said Li Lin, a company official who had worked in Xiji.
Thanks to China's poverty alleviation campaign, Xiji shook off poverty in 2020.