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Chinese regional jet ready for commercial flights


HONG KONG (BNS): China's locally made Modem Ark (MA) 60 regional jet undertook its maiden commercial flight at the northern port city of Tianjin on Sunday, Chinese news agencies reported on Monday.

The maiden flight was operated by Okair Airlines. The Chinese media reported that the introduction of locally made aircraft meant end of dominance of foreign companies. The new aircraft has been produced by the Xi'an Aircraft Industry Company (XAC). The company has developed expertise in manufacturing aircraft over the years.

Since 2005, Modern Ark has been sold in African and South East Asian markets. It has become popular as the aircraft is easy to maintain and incurs low operational costs. With China being its independent intellectual property rights holder, the aircraft is meant to ply on short and medium haul route.

Several Chinese airlines have placed orders with XAC for the aircraft. Okair Airlines, based in Beijing, would operate 10 of these aircraft while Kunming's Ying An Airlines has ordered 60 planes.

XAC has orders for the purchase of 136 aircraft. The Chinese agencies reported that these orders were both from within the country and abroad.

It is estimated that China would need at least 800 regional jets in the next 20 years and the local manufacturing company expects to make a significant contribution in meeting the demand.

Airlines world over prefer to fly regional jets for shorter routes as they are more economical. Most of the regional jet are turbo-prop aircraft and more fuel efficient than the fast moving jet aircraft. But the problem with the turbo-props is that they make a lot of noise making the passengers uncomfortable in the cabin. Several manufacturers are busy developing quieter turbo-props so that airlines can give better service to the passengers.

MA-60 can carry 50 to 60 passengers. China's aviation sector has grown despite slump in the sector worldwide. However, growth has not been as impressive as earlier. Several regional players, including India are working on regional jets of their own. The Indian aircraft, being developed from scratch, is not likely to be ready for commercial operations for at least five years.

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