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AVIC takes flight in Cambodia

By Zhao Yanrong in Phnom Penh and Wang Wen in Beijing | China Daily | Updated: 2014-08-22 07:15

Backed by China's Joy Air, Bayon Airlines signs deal for 20 MA60 twin turboprops

Cambodia made its biggest international order of the Chinese MA60 "Modern Ark" twin turboprop aircraft on Thursday after the newly launched Cambodia Bayon Airlines signed a procurement contract for 20 MA60s with Xi'an Aircraft Industry Group under China Aviation Industry Corp.

According to the contract, all 20 aircraft will be delivered within five years and operated by Bayon Airlines for domestic business.

AVIC takes flight in Cambodia

Lin Zuoming (left), president of AVIC, gives a model of an MA60 twin turboprop aircraft as a gift to Heng Samrin, president of the Cambodian National Assembly, during the signing ceremony on Thursday in Phnom Penh. Provided to China Daily

Before signing the contract, a launching ceremony of Bayon Airlines took place in the capital city of Phnom Penh. Backed by Joy Air, Bayon Airlines is China's first airline in Cambodia, as well as the first to have Cambodia owning planes rather than leasing them.

Starting in December, Bayon Airlines plans to open routes from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap and Siem Reap to Sihanoukville, then gradually open express routes between other major Cambodian cities, to become the second company obtaining the right to fly domestic routes in Cambodia after Angkor Air.

Bayon Airlines also plans to introduce 10 Airbus A320s on routes linking Cambodia with other Southeast Asian countries including Vietnam, Laos and Thailand.

"We welcome Chinese companies investing in our aviation industry," said Heng Samrin, president of the Cambodian National Assembly, during a meeting with a delegation from AVIC led by the company's president, Lin Zuoming, on Thursday.

Heng Samrin said tourism is considered key to boosting Cambodia's economic development. Approximately 4.2 million international travelers visited Cambodia in 2013, and the country aims to host 6 million tourists by 2018.

"The development of the tourism industry creates many opportunities for international airline companies. Opening Bayon Airlines and contributing to Cambodian air transport capability are the right decisions," Heng Samrin added.

Located on the Indochina Peninsula in Southeast Asia, Cambodia is planning to join the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in 2015, which will help Bayon Airlines to reach a much larger market with ASEAN's 700 million population, he said.

Bayon is expected to become the largest airline in Cambodia and on the southeast peninsula, said Liu Jia, general manager at Bayon Airlines. "Operating safely, expanding business scale, having good control over operating costs and improving customer services are all the key factors for successfully operating civil airlines," Liu said.

Cambodia's aviation market is set to keep introducing aircraft and increasing flights. Besides meeting the booming tourism demand in Cambodia, introducing MA60s from China will help to enhance relations between the two countries, he added.

Two MA60s have been operated by the Royal Cambodian Air Force since 2012, which was the first export of the aircraft to the Southeast Asian country. Cambodian King Norodom Sihamoni and Prime Minister Hun Sen traveled on a MA60 from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap and praised the aircraft's performance, according to the country's ministry of national defense.

"The MA60 works quietly and efficiently. It will help us to improve our transportation capability. Our guests who flew on the MA60 liked it very much," said Zhou Pirun, director-general of the equipment and technology bureau under the ministry.

The Cambodian Air Force is training more pilots on the Chinese-made aircraft and has strong interest in cooperating with the Chinese aircraft manufacturers in the future, the senior defense officer added.

By the end of 2013, there were 210 orders for the MA60 from domestic as well as foreign clients, and 88 aircraft were delivered, according to AVIC. Clients from 16 nations in Asia, South America and Africa got most of the deliveries.

"We already occupy a leading position in the world's civil turboprop regional aircraft market," said Wang Qiming, a consultant to AVIC's committee on science and technology.

Wang said MA60 enjoys many advantages in the developing country market, such as low price and high quality.

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