ATR and Xian Aircraft both courting Chinese start-up airline

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Xian Aircraft is trying to secure a deal to establish a joint-venture airline with Anhui Lianhua Industry group, the same Chinese industrial conglomerate ATR has been speaking to about establishing an ATR production line in China.

Some informal discussions have been taking place between Xian Aircraft and Anhui Lianhua with a view to establishing a regional airline in eastern China's Anhui province, says a Xian Aircraft official, who wishes to remain anonymous.

The official says the new airline will be modelled after Xian Aircraft MA60 operator Joy Air, a regional carrier Xian Aircraft owns.

This new passenger airline that is being proposed for Anhui will operate Xian Aircraft MA600s, says the official, referring to an updated version of the MA60.

ATR has for more than two years now been speaking to Anhui Lianhua about establishing an ATR production line in the province, potentially the first ATR production line outside France.

The French-Italian aircraft-maker has also been trying to get Anhui Lianhua to order ATR aircraft for the group's new airline.

But a well-placed source in China says Anhui Lianhua is unlikely to get ATRs or MA60s to begin with.

It is instead looking at starting with 19-seat Harbin Y12s and later move into larger turboprops, says the source.

Officials from Anhui Lianhua Industry group were unavailable for comment.