China's civil aviation regulatory authority has certified Xian Aircraft's new MA600 turboprop, paving the way for first deliveries to begin shortly.

"On 18 May, the Civil Aviation Administration of China granted the MA600 a type certificate and production certificate," says an official at Xian Aircraft, who wishes to remain anonymous. "We can now deliver the aircraft to customers."

The 60-seat MA600's launch customer, with a 2008 order for two aircraft, is the Civil Aviation Flight University of China in Guanghan, Sichuan province.

Xian Aircraft has built the two aircraft for the flying school, says the official. One has been painted in the school's livery and will be delivered in the coming days, he adds.

The MA600 is similar to Xian Aircraft's MA60 turboprop.

One key difference is that the MA600 has stairs incorporated into the passenger door, rather than as a separate attachment. The door is also located near the front of the aircraft rather than towards the back, like it is on the MA60.

The MA600 also has Rockwell Collins' Pro Line 21 avionics system, while the MA60 has the older Pro Line 2 avionics.

The airframer has not secured additional orders for the MA600 but domestic carrier Joy Air, which operates five MA60s, has expressed an interest in getting MA600s.

Joy Air is based in Xian, a city in central China, and it is a joint-venture between Xian Aircraft and China Eastern Airlines.

Source: Air Transport Intelligence news