AVIC un­veils plan for next-gen­er­a­tion re­gional air­craft

China Daily (Canada) - - CHINA - By ZHAO LEI zhaolei@chi­nadaily.com.cn

China’s ma­jor air­craft man­u­fac­turer an­nounced on Thurs­day the launch of its new re­gional tur­bo­prop pro­gram, an in­di­ca­tion that the coun­try is in­vest­ing heav­ily to grab a big­ger share of the civil avi­a­tion mar­ket.

Dong Jian­hong, chief de­signer of the air­craft at Avi­a­tion In­dus­try Corp of China, the na­tion’s largest air­craft man­u­fac­turer, said at a news con­fer­ence in Bei­jing that the next-gen­er­a­tion tur­bo­prop, the 78-seat MA-700, will serve re­gional air trans­porta­tion within an 800-km range and be able to fly at high al­ti­tudes and in high tem­per­a­tures.

He said the AVIC tur­bo­prop will have a cut­ting-edge de­sign, low op­er­a­tion and main­te­nance costs, eco-friendly tech­nol­ogy and rig­or­ous safety stan­dards.

“The safety stan­dards we adopt will be even stricter than those of civil avi­a­tion au­thor­i­ties in China and other na­tions,” Dong added. “We also de­signed a spa­cious place for each pas­sen­ger that is larger than that of other air­craft of its kind.”

The air­craft will have the most ad­vanced flight con­trol sys­tem — fly-by-wire tech­nol­ogy — its first use on a tur­bo­prop air­craft.

The de­signer said the MA-700 will be able to carry a pay­load of up to 8.6 met­ric tons and fly 610 km per hour.

The plane’s de­sign is ex­pected to be fi­nal­ized next year, and its maiden flight is set for 2016.

The air­craft will be de­liv­ered to buy­ers in 2018, he said.

Be­fore the new air­craft, AVIC de­vel­oped the MA-60 tur­bo­prop re­gional air­liner and its up­grade vari­ant, the MA-600.

Eighty-eight MA-60s or MA600s have been de­liv­ered to 24 buy­ers from 16 na­tions in Asia, South Amer­ica and Africa, said Pang Zhen, head of AVIC’s civil air­craft de­vel­op­ment.

The ris­ing cost of avi­a­tion fuel has put air­lines un­der heavy pres­sure, mak­ing tur­bo­prop air­craft, which con­sume less fuel than tur­bo­fan jets, more at­trac­tive.

Pang said the global mar­ket will need at least 2,900 tur­bo­prop re­gional air­lin­ers in the next 20 years, and China will need nearly 350 dur­ing this pe­riod.

China has nearly 2,000 air­lin­ers, 92 per­cent of which are large air­craft that have more than 100 seats. The sit­u­a­tion forces car­ri­ers to use large planes to con­duct short-dis­tance flights or even aban­don short-haul routes, lead­ing to eco­nomic losses, Pang said.

Liu Jieyin, ex­ec­u­tive vi­cepres­i­dent of Bei­jing-based Okair Air­lines, echoed Pang’s re­marks on the need for more tur­bo­props. Air­lines are usu­ally re­luc­tant to use large air­craft to per­form short-dis­tance flights be­cause it ac­cel­er­ates wear and tear on en­gines and other costly equip­ment while mak­ing only small prof­its, Liu said.

Mean­while, tak­ing re­gional air­craft for short trips is more con­ve­nient for trav­el­ers than other forms of trans­porta­tion, which plays into the huge de­mand for such planes, he said.

“Say you want to travel from Yan­tai in Shan­dong prov­ince to Dalian in Liaon­ing prov­ince. An MA-60 makes the flight in 45 min­utes, but it takes six to seven hours if you go by ship.”

Liu said his com­pany has signed an agree­ment with AVIC to pro­cure 50 MA-se­ries air­craft, in­clud­ing the MA-700 and its vari­ants.

Geng Ruguang, AVIC deputy gen­eral man­ager, said the com­pany has com­mis­sioned con­sult­ing agen­cies to sur­vey 112 po­ten­tial users and will con­sider their re­quests and sug­ges­tions in the de­sign process.

The MA-700 plat­form will also be re­fit­ted to serve mul­ti­ple pur­poses such as med­i­cal ser­vice, search and res­cue, mar­itime sur­veil­lance and sci­en­tific ex­per­i­ments, he added.

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