A Merpati Nusantara Airlines MA60 at Ngurah Rai International Airport in southern Bali

Chinese aircraft scrutinised after same-day crashes

The civil aviation authorities of Indonesia and Myanmar have grounded two Chinese-made MA-60 aircraft fleets.

Merpati Nusantara Airlines and Myanmar Airways were instructed to take the fleets out of service to allow airworthiness checks to take place following a series of accidents.

A Merpati MA-60 crash-landed at El Tari Airport in Kupang, east Indonesia on 10 June. On the same day a Myanmar MA-60 skidded and overshot the runway after landing at Kawthaung Airport.

The badly damaged Merpati aircraft is unlikely to fly again according to airline official Harry Saptanto.

In Yangon Myanmar's director general of Civil Aviation, Tin Naing Tun, said the Myanmar Airways aircraft, which was also badly damaged, is likely to be grounded permanently.

State-owned Merpati has a fleet of 13 aircraft, from 15 that were ordered in 2005. One that was delivered in 2008 was lost following in a crash in 2011 in west Papua, killing 25 people of the 27 on board.

Indonesian Ministry of Transportation spokesman Bambang Ervan expects checks on Merpati's fleet to take at least three months, while Tin was unable to say how long Myanmar Airways fleet of three will be grounded.

The MA-60 “Modern Ark” is a regional turboprop aircraft made by the Xi'an Aircraft Industry Company (XIAC). Merpati took delivery of the first aircraft in 2008 and was undecided whether it wanted the remaining 14, which remained parked outside the XAIC plant in Shaanxi Province, as the airline was unhappy with its operations.

XIAC threatened Merpati with legal action. The issue was resolved and the airline took delivery of the remaining 14 aircraft in late 2011 through to the following year. MA-60 does not have Federal Aviation Administration or European Aviation Safety Agency certification.

Philippines low-cost airline Zest Air phased out its four MA-60s in May this year after two accidents involving the aircraft. Chinese carriers Wuhan Airlines and Sichuan Airlines have stored three and two such aircraft respectively since 2002 after utilising them for two years.

Neither carrier has any plans to put the aircraft back into commercial operations.

The recent accidents involving the aircraft pose a major setback to China's plans of penetrating the international markets with the ARJ21 regional jet and C919 short-to-medium range twin-engine jet aircraft.

The ARJ21 has yet to be certified, making it already five years behind schedule, while the C919 is expected to be launched in 2014.

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