AVIC Aircraft signs initial orders for 185 MA700 planes

BEIJING, Aug 19 (Reuters) - AVIC Aircraft Co said on Wednesday it had signed initial agreements to sell 185 MA700 turboprops to nine domestic and foreign companies.

Still in development, the 70-seat MA700 is China’s next generation turboprop after the MA60, sold mostly to domestic carriers. Financial terms of the order were not disclosed.

China is keen to develop a successful aviation industry to prove it can match the United States and Europe. But it has been held back by inexperience, a shortage of local aerospace design and engineering talent, and well as a lack of home-grown companies with the requisite technology.

The MA60, sold mostly to small domestic carriers as well as carriers in Africa and elsewhere, was involved in several accidents, including one in which the wing of the plane became partly detached when it ran onto grass after landing.

Final assembly of the MA700 will be completed next year, with the maiden flight and delivery scheduled for 2017 and 2019 respectively, AVIC Aircraft said in a stock exchange filing.

China’s Okay Airway and Joy Air have each signed 30 initial orders for the plane, it said, adding other domestic customers include the leasing subsidiary of China Development Bank and China Merchants Bank.

Nepal’s Air Avenues and Pakistan’s Hybrid Aviation are also among the MA700’s launch customers, it said. (Reporting by Fang Yan and Matthew Miller in Beijing; Editing by David Holmes)