China delivers first two MA60s to Zimbabwe

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Air Zimbabwe has taken delivery of two Xian Aircraft MA60 turboprops from China as the manufacturer reports potential deals with two other African nations and the South Pacific nation of Fiji.

A ceremony was held at Harare International Airport in Zimbabwe yesterday to celebrate the arrival of the first two MA60s in the country, says China’s state-run news agency Xinhua. They represent the first foreign sales of the 56-60-seat aircraft, which is an updated version of the Y-7, which itself is a development of the Antonov An-24.

Xinhua says these two are part of a three-aircraft purchase deal and will be used to serve domestic and regional destinations such as: Victoria Falls, Kariba, Balawayo and Buffalo Range in Zimbabwe; Lusaka in Zambia; Lilongwe in Malawi; Johannesburg in South Africa; and Lubumbashi in Congo.

Reports from Zimbabwe also confirm that the state-owned national carrier, Air Zimbabwe, will be operating the aircraft on some regional and domestic routes from next week.

According to Avsoft’s ACAS database, Air Zimbabwe has been operating with just two Boeing 737-200s and two Boeing 767-200s and its only regional aircraft, a BAe 146-200, has been in storage.

Meanwhile a report in the state-run China Daily says Fiji late last month signed a contract to purchase one MA60 and the African nations of Eritrea and Congo “signed memos [memorandum of understanding] for the purchase of three MA60 aircraft” each.

Air Fiji told ATI last December that it was considering a proposal from China National Aero-Technology Import & Export Corporation (CATIC) for the purchase of MA60s. CATIC is also one of Air Fiji’s owners.

The aircraft delivered to Zimbabwe is a new variant of the MA60, which has a different interior and upgraded propeller than earlier models. Officials at Xian Aircraft have publicly said the newer MA60 is less noisy and offers more passenger comfort.