It isn’t often we get to report on a brand new, new-build freighter type, but today we bring you the Xi’an MA-600F.
Xi’an Aircraft Industrial Corporation, sometimes called Xi’an Aircraft Company (XAC), a subsidiary of the Aviation Industry Corporation of China (commonly called AVIC), is based in Xi’an, Shaanxi province. Xi’an is a major hub of aviation development in China, recently dubbed by writer James Fallows as “A combination of Kitty Hawk, Aspen, Teterboro Airport, and Everett, Washington.” Xi’an Aircraft has been building military and commercial airplanes there since its founding in 1958.
The MA (for “Modern Ark”) 600F is the first all-cargo version of the recently-modernized turboprop, descended from the Ukrainian-Soviet Antonov An-24/An-26. Previously seen as the Xi’an Y7 (introduced in 1984) and the MA-60 (introduced in 2000), the MA-600 advanced considerably on those earlier version with a comprehensive avionics upgrade from Rockwell Collins as well as a large number of other internal improvements. Like the MA-60, which is still in production, the MA-600 uses two Pratt & Whitney Canada PW127J turboprop engines, which are related to those used by Bombardier on the Dash-8, ATR, and the older engines on the Fokker F-27 and Embraer Brasilia.
The MA-600 is primarily a passenger airliner, but the freighter variant comes with a large cargo door aft of the wing. Unusually, the door is on the starboard side of the aircraft, though the turboprop’s straight-wing design doesn’t make loading any more challenging than it would if the door were in the conventional location. The hold can accommodate five LD3’s or five 88″x54″ pallets.
Although the MA-60/600 has not been a huge seller, the freighter version offers bargain lift for the right operator who might need the rough-and-tumble capabilities of the Xi’an, whose basic design was originally meant for austere locations, unpaved runways, and remote areas in central Asia.
Sana’a-based Felix Airways of Yemen will become the first operator of the MA-600F, and the first example of the type is seen here at last year’s China International Aviation & Aerospace Exhibition at Zhuhai. Felix Airways is also passenger carrier, linking Sana’a with other regional destinations using a small fleet of four Bombardier CRJs, 2 CRJ-200ERs and 2 CRJ-700s and has plans to replace these with Airbus A320 and Bombardier Dash-8 variants.