China`s latest turboprop passenger aircraft, the Xinzhou 600, or Modern Ark 600 (MA600), rolled off the assembly line of China Aviation Industry Corp. 1 (AVIC1) in the city of Xi`an on June 29.
Comparable to Canadian firm Bombardier`s Q400 and the French ATR aircraft, the 60-seat MA600 is an improved version of the 50-60 seat MA60 that is in service mainly in Africa and Southeast Asia.
Turboprop aircraft are designed for short-haul or mid-range commuter flights lasting two to four hours. They usually carry between four and 70 passengers depending on the plane`s size.
China`s aviation market has developed fast, but its fleet structure is lopsided, with short-haul and mid-range aircraft accounting for 12 per cent of the total and long-range planes often used for regional flights.
At present, about 75 per cent of China`s air routes carry fewer than 160 passengers per day, making it proper to boost short-distance regional air transport among small and medium-sized cities.
`Most of China`s regional air routes are about 600 kilometres, or a one-hour flight. They are ideal territory for regional aircraft like MA60 and MA600,` said Chen Fusheng, deputy director general of AVIC1`s commercial aircraft department.
AVIC1 started to develop MA600 in the second half of 2005, said He Shengqiang, chief engineer and vice-president of Xi`an Aircraft Industry Company Ltd., under AVIC1.
The MA600 is set to begin trial flights in September, said He Shengqiang. It will be delivered next year to its first customer Ã‚Â– the China Civil Aviation Flight University in Sichuan Province.
The MA600 production is planned to reach an annual capacity of 10-15 planes by 2010-2012, and an annual capacity of 30 planes after that, said Chen Fusheng.
He Shengqiang predicted that the world market could provide demand for more than 300 and the domestic market between 120-150 MA600 planes in the next 10 years.
`To assure a bigger slice of the turboprop market, the MA600 is designed to meet demand for the next 10 years,` said Chen Fusheng.
`Compared with turbo-fan aircraft from Bombardier`s CRJ and Brazilian ERJ, MA600 turbo-prop regional aircraft consumes one third to two fifths less fuel,` said Lu Hai, chief architect of MA600.
The fuel-efficient quality is attributed to a major improvement in structural design, making MA600 about 300 kilograms lighter than its predecessor MA60.Copyright Xinhua. Any unauthorised reproduction is prohibited
Text: Wu Qi/China Features