‘Modern Ark’ goes into Malawi service

The Malawi Defence Force (MDF) has finally placed two Xian MA600 ‘Modern Ark’ medium transport aircraft into service.

Picture: Malawi Air Force

Long journey: The five-day ferry flight passed through 13 countries on the 7,280 mile route. Picture: Malawi Air Force.

The aircraft undertook a five-day ferry flight from Kunming Changshui International Airport, China, to Blantyre-Chileka International Airport, Malawi, passing through 13 countries during the 7,280 mile journey.

They were initially used for testing and further training and did not enter service for some months.

It is unclear whether they will augment or replace three surviving Dornier 228 light twin turboprops of four acquired between 1986 and 1989.

The Xian MA600 is an improved derivative of the Xian MA60, which was, in turn, a stretched variant of the Xian Y7-200A, itself based on the Antonov An-24.

The aircraft has new avionics, more powerful Pratt & Whitney Canada PW127J turboprop engines, and an improved passenger cabin for its 60 passengers.

The older MA60 is in service with the National Air Force of Angola, the Royal Cambodian Air Force, the Cameroon Air Force, the Djibouti Air Force, the Laotian Army Air Force and the Zambian Air Force.

China and Malawi established diplomatic relations in 2008 and, since then, China has assisted with a number of infrastructure projects, including a new parliament building, a national stadium, new roads, technical colleges, conference centres and hotels, and the Malawi University of Science and Technology, as well as a presidential villa.

Jon Lake

Jon Lake

Jon is defence editor for both Arabian and African Aerospace magazines.