China started production of a new commercial airplane as of the end of December 2017, the turboprop model MA700 which would be the competitor with the French manufactured ATR 72 aircraft. The aircraft is designed by Xi’an Aircraft Industrial Corporation, a company that is part of the AVIC group, controlled by the Chinese government.
According to a report of the news agency, the production began with structural parts of the aircraft and components of the cargo door. The China-based news agency also pointed out that the first flight of the MA700 is scheduled for November 2019, while its operational certification and arrival in the market is expected in 2021.
The development of the aircraft is part of Beijing’s strategy to boost regional aviation in the country, Chinese officials stated.
National Flag Carrier of Nepal, Nepal Airlines Corporation currently flies two Chinese Modern Arc MA60, other variant of MA600 aircraft manufactured by Xi’an Aircraft Industrial Corporation in Nepalese Sky.
As per the manufacturer’s definition, the MA-700 is a high-speed, medium-range commercial turboprop aircraft. Preliminary data from AVIC indicate that the MA-700 can reach a maximum of 640 km / h (with an estimated cruising speed between 550 km / h and 580 km / h) and travel up to 1,500 km with a maximum weight of 27,600 kg. The cabin is designed to accommodate between 78 and 85 passengers.
This capability and performance of the aircraft have a potential of being the ATR 72 of China, the world’s best-selling commercial turboprop. The MA-700, however, is slightly superior in size and performance compared to the traditional model of the Italian-French manufacturer controlled by Airbus.
The MA700’s development program was announced by AVIC in 2007. Since then, even though it has not yet had the product built, the Chinese manufacturer has already received 185 orders from 11 customers for the new turboprop.
In addition to requests from airlines and aircraft leasing groups in China, the aircraft was also ordered by companies from South Africa, Bahrain, Cambodia, Nepal, and Pakistan, AVIC acknowledge.
The MA700 is one of four commercial aircraft currently under development in China and the only one in this segment driven by turboprop. Other ongoing projects in the country are led by COMAC, another Chinese state-owned manufacturer, with the C919 and CR929 jets (designed in partnership with Russia’s UAC) and ARJ21, the first Chinese commercial aircraft to be certified.
The Chinese aerospace industry already has already some experience in turboprop aircraft manufacturing. AVIC it has the models MA60 and MA600 in its catalog, launched in the last decade.