Xian Aircraft, which builds the 56-seater MA60 turboprop on flying display at Asian Aerospace, is finalising a deal with Lao Aviation for up to five of the aircraft, says sales manager Shen Hong. Lao Aviation currently flies a fleet of three older Y-7 turboprops, while two Y-7s are used by the Laos air force. Those aircraft are also built by Xian Aircraft, and would be replaced by the MA60s.

Xian Aircraft will fly the MA60 to Laos following the Asian Aerospace show. Says Shen: "They have the money, because the government of Laos will support this deal. They are our old customers, and we have good relations with them."

The MA60 sells for about $11 million each. Xian Aircraft may get competition from ATR, as Lao Aviation also has two ATR 72-200 turboprops in its fleet, says Shen.

Xian Aircraft is also in discussions with Wuhan Airlines, located in central China, for the purchase of up to three MA60s. When it comes to selling aircraft to Chinese carriers, Xian Aircraft has a distinct advantage over foreign manufacturers, says Shen. "It's very easy for us because the government supports our product for the domestic market," he says.

Xian Aircraft has built 12 MA60s to date. Sichuan Airlines has ordered 10 of the type, five firm and five options, and China Northern Airlines has ordered a further five aircraft. All three Chinese customers for the MA60 currently operate Y-7-100s.

Asian Aerospace is the first time the 56-seat MA60 – the MA stands for Modern Ark – has been shown outside of China. It is the latest upgrade to the Y-7 turboprop family, which entered service with the Civil Aviation Administration of China in 1984. Changes include new Pratt & Whitney PW127J turboprops, Rockwell Collins cockpit avionics, a Honeywell auxiliary power unit, and a renovated passenger cabin. A cargo version of the MA60 is also available.

Xian Aircraft is also seeking a launch customer for the MA60-MPA Fearless Albatross, a military version of the MA60 designed for patrol, surveillance, and search and rescue operations.

Source: Flight Daily News