Lao Airlines, the national airline of Laos, expects to take delivery of its first Avic “Modern Ark” MA600 turboprop “sometime after February,” marking the 56-seat turboprop’s entry into revenue service outside China. The only other two existing MA600s, delivered in December 2010 and September 2011, respectively, operate in China with the Civil Aviation Flight University of China (Cafuc) for training purposes.
Making its first international appearance during last November’s Dubai Air Show, the MA600 participated in the flying display each day of the event, while Avic promoted its work on the next member of the Modern Ark line–the MA700–at its display within the exhibit halls. Avic claims orders for 16 MA600s so far.
Developers claim dramatic improvements for the new 56-seat MA600 (in standard layout) over its predecessor, the MA60, including “enhanced” fatigue life and maintainability. Designers also have managed to reduce the airplane’s empty weight and integrate stairs into the passenger door. Meanwhile, Pratt & Whitney Canada PW127J engines contribute to better runway performance.
In the cockpit, Rockwell Collins has supplied its Pro Line 21 avionics suite. Another Western program partner, Hamilton Sundstrand, contributes 247F-3 four-blade propellers and GTCP36-150 auxiliary power unit.
The twin turboprop has won Chinese certification for 120-minute extended twin-engine operations (ETOPS 120). Asked about certification in other countries, an Avic official answered that “the MA600 will be certified in those countries where it will operate.” It will most likely follow the MA60 into countries such as Zimbabwe, Congo, the Philippines, Sri Lanka and Bolivia.
At a maximum takeoff weight of 48,200 pounds, the MA600 can cruise at up to 277 knots; at 232 knots and full payload, it will fly 860 nm. Along with the passenger version, Avic plans to offer a variant for maritime patrol, cloud seeding and rescue work.
Meanwhile, Avic has completed the preliminary design of the MA700, first flight of which it expects to take place in 2015. The joint design and development phase has begun, and Avic has interviewed 120 operators to understand their needs, said officials. The company expects the airplane to enter service in 2017.
A model of the MA700 displayed in Dubai suggested a striking resemblance to the Franco-Italian ATR 72. Avic’s aspirations for the MA700 include FAA and EASA certification, allowing it to market the airplane to Western customers as well as the MA600’s installed base.