AVIC to decide on suppliers for MA700 by early 2014

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AVIC has issued a tender to global suppliers for work on its MA700 turboprop programme and received bids from interested parties.

The Chinese airframer is evaluating its options and will decide on which suppliers it will work with by early next year, its vice-president for international business Chen Guanjun tells Flightglobal Pro at the Aviation Expo in Beijing.

He adds that the government has given its approval for the project and AVIC is now targeting to achieve type certification for the turboprop from the Civil Aviation Administration of China by 2018. Simultaneously, it will also pursue certification from either the US Federal Aviation Administration or the European Aviation Safety Agency to ensure that the turboprop meets international standards.

The baseline model of the MA700 will have 70 seats, which AVIC believes is well-suited for the China and Southeast Asia market. It is aware that several airframers have expressed their intentions to build larger 90-seat turboprops, and that it also intends to compete in that market.

“When the markets mature and there is a demand for the turboprops on higher density routes, we will stretch the aircraft to 90 seats,” says Chen, adding that this should come a year or two after the baseline model.

Besides a higher seat capacity, the MA700, compared to its predecessors the MA60 and MA600, will have a new fuselage, wings and also improved systems and engines.

“This will be a brand new aircraft, not just an upgrade of the MA600,” says Chen.

He adds that AVIC also aims to differentiate the MA700 from the ATR72, by improving the turboprop’s comfort, costs and speed. Though dimensions for the upcoming turboprop are not available, pictures on its pamphlet shows that the MA700’s main landing gear extending gear extends from the aircraft’s fuselage and it also has a T-tail, similar to the ATR 72.

“In future, the ATR 72 will be our competitor. It already has a good market share. If we don’t improve on efficiency, systems and speed, we won’t be able to compete,” says Chen.

A model of the MA700 was featured prominently at the AVIC stand at the Aviation Expo.

The MA600 and its predecessor, the MA60, have been sold mostly to airline customers in developing countries in Asia and Africa. The MA700 is likely to compete with the ATR 72-500/600 and Bombardier Q400 in the larger turboprop passenger aircraft market.

In its 2013-2032 market outlook for civil aircraft in China, AVIC says it expects demand for about 2,500 turboprops in the 60-99 seat range over the next 20 years. This is because they are cost-efficient on short routes, especially when the fuel price is high.

“We will target the global market with our MA700. But we believe that Africa and South Asia will have great potential because they have a lot of islands where turboprop operations are most suitable,” says Chen.