With the Xian MA700, China is developing a regional aircraft with a turboprop engine. A prototype now appears to be nearing completion for the first time.
China has been working on its own range of commercial aircraft for some time. With the Comac ARJ21, the People’s Republic is introducing a regional jet. The Comac C919 is currently being tested as a counterpart to the short- and medium-flight duopolists Boeing 737 and Airbus A320. Together with Russia, China is also tinkering with the long-haul aircraft CR929, which is to be flown by only one pilot.
A turboprop aircraft for short distances is also to be included in this line-up: Xian Aircraft, which belongs to the state-owned parent company Avic, is currently developing another regional aircraft, the MA700. Last October, Xian Aircraft mounted wings on a fuselage section for the first time – this was, however, an experimental aircraft for static tests on the ground. A prototype now appears to be nearing completion and gives an idea of what the aircraft will look like later.
Maiden flight postponed again
Pictures on Friday’s Twitter show an unpainted MA700 being pulled through a factory hall decorated with decorative bows. Employees wear face masks, which have been common throughout the People’s Republic since the outbreak of the corona virus. Except for missing engines and fairings at the wing roots, main landing gear and vertical tail, the prototype appears fully assembled.
It is not yet clear whether this is the test pilot for the ground tests or a first airworthy prototype. Meanwhile the maiden flight has been postponed to 2022. When the programme started in 2013, the market launch was originally scheduled for 2019. After delays, the date was postponed to 2019 and finally to 2020.
Competitor for ATR 72 and DHC-8-400
The MA700 is based on the MA60, which is a Chinese development of the Antonov An-26. The new design is intended to seat 78 to 85 passengers. This gives the aircraft more space than the French-Italian ATR 72-600 (up to 74 passengers) and roughly the same size as the Canadian De Havilland DHC Dash 8-400 (up to 85 passengers), which until recently was known as the Bombardier Dash 8 Q400.