China's Xian Aircraft is considering building a smaller version of its MA60 regional turboprop, dubbed the MA40, primarily intended for use at high-altitude airports.

The 60-seat MA60, a stretched version of the Y-7 that is itself derived from the Antonov An-24, features Pratt & Whitney Canada PW127J engines with four-blade composite propellers, Honeywell and Rockwell Collins avionics, and a new cabin. The 40-seat version will incorporate essentially the same engines and wing, but a shorter fuselage, says Xian sales manager Shen Hong.

The company is pitching the MA40 for operations from high-altitude airports, but will not proceed beyond the concept stage without firm orders. China's armed forces are the most likely launch customer, says Shen. China's military is also potentially the biggest customer for the MA60, as it operates more than 50 Y-7s that will need replacing at some point, according to Shen.

Xian sees operators of the Y-7 as the most likely customers for the MA60. Shen recently returned from a promotional trip through Indochina, Myanmar and Thailand, optimistic about selling three MA60s to Lao Aviation. Orders could be financed through Shenzhen Financial, which has helped some Chinese carriers buy the aircraft, and which is looking at taking 60 for leasing.

Sichuan Airlines has ordered five MA60s and holds options for five more, while China Northern Airlines has bought five, and Wuhan Airlines is taking three aircraft through Shenzhen Financial.

Source: Flight International