Chinese airframer AVIC has begun the development stage of the MA700 regional turboprop aircraft programme.
It has completed its initial study and market research, and has formed a committee to start development works, says a company official.
While Beijing has yet to give its nod for the programme, the airframer does not expect that to be an issue, he adds.
The twin turboprop will have the capacity to seat between 70 and 90 passengers, compared with the MA600's 52 seats. Like its smaller variant, the MA700 will also be manufactured by Xian Aircraft.
"It will be a different aircraft from the MA600, it will be better with different systems and more powerful engines," says the official.
AVIC is aiming for the type to receive certification from both the Civil Aviation Administration of China and the US Federal Aviation Administration by 2017.
A large model of the MA700 was featured prominently at the AVIC stand at Airshow China in Zhuhai last year.
The MA600 and its predecessor, the MA60, have been sold mostly to airline customers in developing countries in Asia and Africa. Several militaries in these third world countries have also bought the aircraft.
The MA700 is likely to compete with the ATR 72-500/600 and Bombardier Q400 in the larger turboprop passenger aircraft market.