A new airworthiness directive issued by the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) has resulted in the grounding of 15 Xi’an Aircraft MA-60 turboprops following two incidents of landing gear failure. The directive requires operators inspect the undercarriages and gear annunciation systems of airplanes that have logged more than 6,400 takeoffs. Two Chinese airlines—Okay Airways and Joy Air—and carriers from the Philippines, Laos, Zimbabwe and Bolivia operate the 15 airplanes.
The first accident occurred on February 4, when a Joy Air MA-60 flying from Taiyuan to Zhengzhou suffered a mechanical failure of the landing gear after touching down at Zhengzhou Xinzheng International Airport. During the roll out the nose-undercarriage unexpectedly retracted. The nose of the airplane subsequently made contact with the runway and emitted sparks until it came to a standstill. None of the 37 passengers and seven crewmembers on board suffered injuries.
On February 25, an Okay Airways MA-60 on its way from Tianjin to Shenyang aborted its approach after the aircraft’s landing gear display malfunctioned. Carrying 38 passengers and five crewmembers, the aircraft circled above Shenyang Taoxian International Airport for nearly three hours before landing safely.
Xi’an Aircraft recently announced on its website that it had applied to the CAAC to suspend operations of all 60 MA-60s in service to allow for an overhaul of their landing gear systems. The company reported that it had dispatched engineering teams to overseas clients, including Indonesia and South Africa.
Jointly owned by China Eastern Airlines and Chinese aerospace conglomerate AVIC, Xi’an-based Joy Air expects to take delivery of four MA-60s this year, increasing its fleet total to 12.
Established in 2004, Okay Airways bases its operations at Tianjin Binhai International Airport. It operates a fleet of 11 MA-60s and plans to take delivery of two more in 2014.
Since 2009, the MA-60 has been involved in 16 accidents.
Last year a Merpati Nusantara Airlines MA-60 flying from Bajawa to Kupang in Indonesia touched down hard on Kupang’s Runway 07. The landing gear sheared off and the propellers and engines hit the tarmac, causing one of the wings to break apart and the fuselage to break in two. One of the 46 passengers and four crew suffered injuries serious enough to warrant hospitalization.
On the same day, a Myanma Airlines MA-60 flying from Mawlamyine to Kawthaung in Myanmar, veered left off of Kawthaung’s Runway 02 after landing. The airliner stopped in a stand of bushes and trees some 200 feet from the left runway edge. No one sustained injuries.