MA700 to take flight in 2016

By Xu Tianran in Zhuhai Source:Global Times Published: 2012-11-15 23:50:09


Models of China's Modern Ark 60 (MA60) passenger aircraft, painted as they appear in different countries. Photo: Xu Tianran/GT
Models of China's Modern Ark 60 (MA60) passenger aircraft, painted as they appear in different countries. Photo: Xu Tianran/GT

China's Modern Ark 60 (MA60) passenger aircraft has seen limited success in the international market over the past seven years, but with the new MA700 scheduled to roar into the skies in 2016, the country hopes to become a leading turboprop aircraft manufacturer, said China's aviation industry authorities Thursday.

MA60s now fly 260 routes for more than 20 foreign airlines from 14 countries, Chen Fusheng, vice president of Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC)'s Aircraft Corporation Ltd, told the Global Times on the third day of Airshow China 2012 in Zhuhai, Guangdong Province.

It takes 20 years and a total of about 800 orders internationally for a regional aircraft to become a mainstream product, while the MA60 only entered the international market in 2005 and just 76 have been sold overseas, he said.

"We deliver about 10 to 15 MA60s a year, about half the world's total of 50-60 seat class turboprops," said Chen, noting that a total of about 130 regional turboprops are delivered worldwide annually, with the larger 70 seat class turboprops delivered mainly by French manufacturer ATR and Canadian Bombardier.

Aiming to become the world's leading regional turboprop aircraft provider, AVIC's Xi'an Aircraft International Corporation (XAIC), the developer of the MA60, has begun development on the 70 seat class MA700 project.

"The plane is scheduled to make its maiden flight in 2016 and be delivered in 2018. We have already received some orders to start the program," Chen said, noting that the MA700 might develop more quickly than new generations of turboprops for ATR and Bombardier, since those firms are influenced by the economic crisis and its aftermath.

Geneviève Roy-Thériault, Bombardier Commercial Aircraft's senior adviser of media and public relations, did not comment on the MA700 and said in a written interview that Bombardier is not developing a new turboprop aircraft at the moment.

As a latecomer to the field of turboprop regional passenger aircraft, the MA700 will focus primarily on Asia, and also aim for one-third of the market share in South America and Africa. After that, the MA700 will try to enter European and US markets, according to Chen.

When asked if regional jets will compete with the turboprop aircraft, Chen said that regional turboprops have a unique advantage when flying air routes shorter than 800 kilometers, and high fuel prices will help increase the demand for turboprop aircraft.

On the first day of Airshow 2012, XAIC got three domestic leasing contracts. XAIC also showcased a maritime surveillance model of the MA60 at its booth. This variant has a range of over 3,000 kilometers and can stay in the air for over 10 hours. XAIC hopes to introduce the plane into China's maritime surveillance force.

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