China’s indigenously-developed MA700 commercial turboprop aircraft has reportedly completed its first flight and recent pictures clearly show it sporting turboprop engines.

The MA700 has completed its first flight, says US-based online aviation publication The Air Current citing an article in an aviation industry magazine published by Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China (Comac). Comac’s custom aviation magazine published the report on the MA700, even though Comac itself has no involvement in the MA700 program.

The MA700 is an 80-seat commercial turboprop aircraft in development and made by Xian Aircraft, a division of China’s Aviation Industry Corporation (AVIC).

Satellite images also show what appears to be a MA700 parked at Yanlian airport where Xian Aircraft is based.

The pictures are significant because it is the first pictures showing the MA700 with the engines installed.

The MA700 program came to a sudden halt in 2020 when the Canadian government blocked the export of Pratt & Whitney Canada PW150C turboprop engines to Xian Aircraft, even though the Chinese aircraft-maker had signed an agreement with the Canadian engine-maker in June 2017 for this engine type to power its MA700.

Without the engines, the aircraft and MA700 programme were effectively grounded because aircraft are largely designed around the engines.

The Canadian government had blocked the export of PW150C turboprop engines to Xian Aircraft as part of a tit-for-tat diplomatic dispute.

This dispute was sparked when the Canadian authorities on 1 December 2018 detained the chief financial officer of Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei, Meng Wanzhou, who is also the daughter of the company’s founder.

Proceedings then began to have her extradited to the US to stand trial, angering the Chinese government.

On 10 December China detained two Canadian nationals, Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, and accused them of crimes under the country’s state secrets laws.

While China has always argued this sequence of events is merely coincidental, the diplomatic dispute was only resolved in late September 2021 when Meng was safely returned to China and the two Canadians were released to return to their home country.

In more recent months, Canada’s government has said publicly it wants to mend ties with China, especially in matters of trade.

Canada’s foreign minister, Melanie Joly, said in an April interview with Politico magazine, the China-Canada relationship “is a difficult one — there were arbitrary detentions of the two Michaels: Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor. [But] I’m glad that this issue is now over and we’re moving on.

“My goal is to make sure that we re-establish ties.”


Editor’s comments: Because the MA700 has the PW150, the same engine type as the De Havilland Aircraft Canada Dash 8-400, it fills the gap left by the Dash 8-400 which is no longer in production. The PW150 is a faster and more powerful powerplant, giving the MA700 more speed and range.