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Chinese turboprop gets ready for takeoff
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Final checks are made to an MA600 aircraft on Sunday, at a hangar in Xi'an, Shaanxi province. Courtesy of AVIC I

The MA600, a new aircraft to join China's turboprop fleet, is expected to roll off the assembly line in Xi'an on Sunday.

This latest MA "Modern Ark" member could be the stepping stone to China gaining a larger share of the world's turboprop aircraft market, insiders said.

Currently, the 50- to 60-seat MA60, the first and only model of the MA series on sale, has received 122 orders since 2005, mainly from African and East Asian countries.

"To assure a bigger slice of the turboprop market, the MA600 is designed to meet demand for the next 10 years," Chen Fusheng, deputy director general of the commercial aircraft department of AVIC I, said yesterday.

Engineers have optimized the aircraft's structure and its aviation electronics system, improved the interior decoration, and added maritime survival functions for island countries, He Shengqiang, chief engineer and vice-president of Xi'an Aircraft Industry Company Ltd under AVIC I, said.

"The total weight of the MA600 is 300 kg less than the MA60, further reducing the aircraft's fuel consumption," He said.

The MA600 is set to begin trials in September and will be delivered to its first customer - the Civil Aviation Fight University of China in Guanghan, Sichuan province - next year, He said.

AVIC I has drawn up an ambitious blueprint for its MA series, which will be comparable to the Canadian Bombardier and the French ATR aircraft.

Chen said: "We hope to see that 40 percent of all turboprop aircraft delivered in the world in 2018 are from the MA series."

To remain competitive in the years after 2018, AVIC I has already started work on the development of the MA700, an aircraft mainly targeted at markets in Europe and America, Chen said.

The entire series - MA60, MA600 and MA700 - will coexist to cater to the different demands of customers, he said.

"Turboprops have huge potential in this era of increasing oil prices," Chen said.

Turboprop aircraft use much less fuel than equivalent turbojets produced by Boeing and Airbus, and are just as safe as turbojets, he said.

"Some of our airline customers abroad have reported profits in the first quarter after they replaced turbojets with the MA60," he said.

Joint research by Bombardier and the Aviation Industry Development Research Center of China, found that of the 5,300-5,500 regional aircraft need in the next two decades, there will be a need for 1,900 turboprop aircraft.

(China Daily June 25, 2008)

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