The twin turboprop Xi’an MA60 can trace its lineage to the An-24, a venerable transport aircraft designed by Antonov OKB design bureau of Soviet Union in 1957.
Built at a factory in Kiev, the 40-seater An-24 had its first flight in December 1959 and was handed over to Aeroflot in 1962 before full operation in September 1963.
More than 1,000 An-24s were made until production ended in 1979 on the Soviet side. The An-24 was designed to operate in rugged conditions with limited ground support and short take-off and landing (STOL) capability.
An-24 was then developed into An-26 with ramp door (licensed as Y-14 by Xi’an), An-30 aerial photo-mapping and An-32 for hot-and-high operation.
China acquired in 1966 a license to produce An-24 and then reverse-engineered and further developed it into Xian Y-7, including two variants using Western parts and systems. MA60 itself is a stretched variant of Y7-200 for overseas markets.
The Y7-200 is powered by Pratt & Whitney Canada PW127C engines while MA-60 uses the PW127J engines. Both engines are from the PW100 family powering numerous other aircraft, including ATR 42/72, Bombardier Dash 8 Q100/200/300/400, Dornier 328, CASA EADS C-295, Fokker 50/60 and Ilyushin Il-114.
A variant of the engine powers Russian Mi-38 medium transport helicopter of the Mil Moscow Helicopter Plant and another variant drives TrainJet, an experimental high-speed train developed by Bombardier Transportation for routes in North America.
Another Western part in MA60 is the four-bladed, scimitar-like Hamilton Sundstrand propellers, a supplier for many other turboprop-powered aircraft. The scimitar-like configuration is believed to deliver better efficiency. Meanwhile, Honeywell Aerospace provides an auxiliary power unit (APU) while Rockwell Collins provides the avionics.
The fact that MA60 has its own APU plus a STOL capability means it can fly to remote airports scattered around the archipelago, Merpati’s own turf, where the infrastructure is limited.
MA60 received certification from the Civil Aviation Administration of China in June 2000 and from the Indonesian Air Transport Directorate General in 2006.
Other than the Western components, the MA60 also has a slightly different nose section compared to An-24 or Y-7. Another difference is MA60’s APU has its exhaust on the side of the starboard engine nacelle instead of on its end, like an An-24.
The XAC further developed MA60 into a MA600 with a prototype, which was completed on June 29, 2008. The aircraft maker also announced in 2007 that it was developing a new design, the 80-seater MA700. Other than transport aircraft, XAC also builds jet fighters and bombers, mostly copied and licensed from Soviet ones, such as the H-6 bomber from Tupolev Tu-16 and the JH-7 Flying Leopard fighter-bomber, lauded as China’s first jet fighter design.