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General Aviation, Regional Aircraft, Regional Airlines

SUMMARY: On the Chinese Harbin Y-12, Coptervision, an unknown US company (rumored to be Vision Airlines) has apparently “ordered” 20 of the only FAA certified Chinese civilian airliner, the Harbin (HAIC) Y-12E which was certified back in 1995 as the Y-12-IV. Is the aircraft cominging to the USA ? or is this another “ruse” as the same big order was placed by a unknown Canadian company last year and nothing has happened since. What is the Y-12E and Y-12F and can they both be on the same Type Certificate when they are two different aircraft ? is it any good ? and why has no ‘western’ country imported one 19 years after certification ? is this a major breakthrough for the Chinese ? Clearly the rugged Y-12E has good sales potential (PT6A-135 engine, western avionics, fixed gear), but it is not marketed or promoted very well, in fact the Chinese do not know how to sell commercial aircraft and they better learn before they start production of the Comac C919 and Avic MA700. Finally a quick a look at the state of the 19 seat un-pressurized market today, what is out there today and what new aircraft are coming to the market and what sells and what does not.

The recent 10th annual Zhuhai Airshow (Nov 11-16) produced a surprise order that I think is big though few have taken notice of the order for 20 Harbin Aircraft Industry Group (HAIG) 19 seat Y-12E and Y-12F unpressurized PT6 powered regional airliners. The aircraft has a lot of sales potential, but it has been totally ignored by the Chinese, yet its FAA certified for 19 years an NO ‘western” sale, the Chinese just do not realize what a little gem they have, too focused on the big stuff (e.g. ARJ-21 and C919), yet they need to learn to sell commercial aircraft, which at this time they surely do not know.

I have personal experience with HAIG sales people, its a joke, a 1980’s style Power Point presentation and no information on training, support, certification, specific performance, nothing, absolutely useless sales staff, and I had 2 excellent prospects for the aircraft. How China thinks it will sell bigger aircraft when they cannot sell 19 seat aircraft ? they better wake up, they and Russia are the only countries in the world that are told what to buy, in the rest of the world airlines make their own selection.



The Harbin Y-12E (above photo left) is FAA type certified since 2006 (Data Sheet: No. A00006WI) and the earlier Y-12-IV was actually FAA Part 23 certified back in 1995, but so far no ‘western’ takers, till now. The Viking ex-de Havilland DHC-6 Twin Otter (above photo right), was one of the first western aircraft in China, and the Chinese are well known for their reverse engineering capabilities, any similarities ? you be the judge. The new Viking DHC-6-400 Twin Otter is over $US 7.2 million, the Y-12 varies from $0 (yes FREE) if you are a poor third world country that recognizes and supports the People’s Republic of China (PRC) over the Republic of China (Taiwan), or up to $3.5+ million (negotiable), depending on how badly AVIC wants the sale. Forecast International predicts 187 Viking Twin Otters will be produced over the next 10 years (2014-2023) or 19 per year and only 58 Y-12’s (6 per year), says something about the the Twin Otters market acceptance versus the Y-12.


The buyer is Coptervision an unknown company in California (possibly Vision Air of Las Vegas ?) that plans to use the aircraft on sightseeing tours of the Grand Canyon, a market with lots of competition and restrictions and the Y-12E will be up against Grand Canyon Airlines (merged with Scenic Airlines in 2009) which operates 16+ DHC-6-300 Twin Otters, many with the Vistaliner conversion offering the big scenic windows, or it could just be Grand Canyon Airlines/Scenic Airlines, looking to replace its aging DHC-6-300 Twin Otters ? could be, as it may be testing US public reaction to flying on a Chinese built airliner.

The rumors I am hearing that it may be Vision Airlines of North Las Vegas, Nevada which operates an wide assortment of aircraft ( 2 x Do328’s, 11 x Do 229’s, 1 x B737-300, 3 x B737-400’s and 2 x B767-200’s), it flies sightseeing tours, charters and any scheduled services it finds attractive like Freeport, Bahamas to the US, flights for Travel Span, LCC PEOPLExpress, etc. Given the fleet of Dornier 228’s and the work around Grand Canyon, I am in agreement it could be Vision Airlines.

In May of 2013 a Canadian Aerospace company was reported to have ordered up to 20 Y-12E’s and Y-12F’s for use in Canada and the USA with deliveries spread out over 5 years as reported by the Shanghai Stock Exchange, again a strategic agreement was signed with HAIG which is a subsidiary of AVIC (Aviation Industry Corporation of China).

This latest US announcement by the Chinese is highly suspicious to me, as was last year’s big Canadian order, as in each case unknown companies are planning on buying large volumes of these Y-12’s, yet no information on buyer, and if this Coptervision is going to operate them around the Grand Canyon then they should already be in business, you don’t walk in and start flying around the Grand Canyon without many approvals, the company should be in business today if its for real.

My years of experience in this industry have given me a good sense for picking up on ‘suspicious’ stories, where something is just not adding up to me, now I have always thought the Y-12 (aka “7/8 scale Twin Otter”) would be ok for North America and wondered why no one has moved on the FAA Part 23 certified aircraft in the past 19 years, but this announcement needs investigation, it could be AVIC’s plan to get attention for the airplane, as they must be frustrated that after 19 years there is not one Y-12 in North America or Europe.

Of the 20 Y-12’s recently ordered, 16 are for the FAA certified Y-12E and 4 for the new Y-12F which China’s Avicopter claims will have FAA certification  “in half a year hopefully”. Well I hate to burst anyone’s bubble, but that will not happen, the Y-12F is a totally different aircraft, larger cabin, more power and higher weights, there is some misinformation going on here as the Y-12F is not an improved Y-12, it is a totally different airplane ! more on that further down.


Y-12-air vanuatuY-12F-6

The Y-12-IV of Air Vanuatu (photo above left), powered by the 620 shp PT6A-27 with MTOW of 12,500 lbs and max. cruise of 177 kts the Y-12F (photo above right) is powered by the 1,100 shp PT6A-65B with MTOW of 18,522 lbs and max. cruise of 260 kts. These two airplanes cannot be on the same TC (Type Certificate) ! why they call the F model a Y-12 is beyond me, does everyone see the difference ? there is no similarity between the two, nice try, the Y-12F will need to get its own TC, that is by Chinese standards at least 5 years away-at best. The Y-12F is a nice airplane, shows the Chinese have come a long way in aircraft design, but don’t try and tell us the two aircraft are the same. Compared to the Y-12E the Y-12F has a wider fuselage, retractable landing gear, 48% higher MTOW, 51% higher payload and is 47% faster, the two are not even close, but one thing is for sure, the Y-12F would do well commercially if it is ever FAA certified.


The P&W PT6A-27 powered Harbin Y-12-IV is the only FAA certified Chinese civil airliner and unknown to most it has been FAA Part 23 certified since March, 1995 and yet no orders were received, though in Canada a company in North Bay, Ontario wanted to take 30+ of the aircraft and convert them to the “Twin Panda” with upgraded PT6A-34 engines, undercarriage, avionics and interior, but it came to nothing.

The Harbin Y-12E was FAA certified in 2006 with the P&W PT6A-135A engine with 750 shp and offering more torque for hot/high environments for places like Nepal and Colombia for instance, both E model customers. The aircraft also has Honeywell avionics and a Hartzell propeller so your major components are western, which is good for support and reliability, and the Chinese are looking to tap the US express delivery market with the Y-12, is this something FedEx would buy ? it does need to replace its aging Cessna C208A/B Caravans now 25 years old in some cases, the Y-12F was designed to carry three LD3 containers, and this could be interesting for Fed Ex, as that is what the failed Ayres Loadmaster LM-200 was suppose to deliver back in the late 1990’s  when FedEx ‘ordered’ 50 of the aircraft.

The Chinese are developing regional turboprops, the earlier version Y-7 became the MA60 (60 seat reverse engineered AN-24 with PW127J engines and western avionics) has been on the market since 2000, and 91 MA60’s and 5 MA600’s have been delivered, several have crashed which prompted the Philippines, Indonesia and Myanmar to ground them for some time, in fact even the Chinese CAAC grounded them, many are in storage and about 50 in service. The New Zealand Government suspended its programme of development aid to Tonga’s tourism industry in July 2013 after a MA60 donated by the Chinese Government was delivered to the airline Real Tonga. In August 2013 the New Zealand Government also issued a statement advising tourists to not travel on Real Tonga’s MA60 on the grounds that “this aircraft has been involved in a significant number of accidents in the last few years”, and the type “is not certified to fly in New Zealand or other comparable jurisdictions”. The ‘new’ MA600 is not much better, customers are poor third world countries seeking a very cheap aircraft, ideally a free one compliments of the People’s Republic of China, which is better than nothing. As for market potential, Forecast International estimates that only 128 MA60/MA600’s will be built between 2014-2023 (10 years) or 13 a year, at best.

The new MA700 is in the works, a 78 seat airliner with max. cruise at 330 kts turboprop airliner, powered by PW150C (Q400 has PW150A) looks similar to ATR-72, but here the Chinese have improved greatly on the MA60 design, though Ukraine’s Antonov Design Bureau has been helping them, just like the Y-12F over the Y-12E, the new Chinese airliners are getting better as they are learning fast, and will be for sure the #3 commercial aircraft producing nation within 20 years.

This Y-12 sale if it goes through is the first sale of a Chinese commercial aircraft to the US market, in fact the first sale to a modern ‘western’ country, and will open the door to future Y-12E orders in the west, a low cost competitor to the Viking Air DHC-6 Series 400 Twin Otter and RUAG’s Dornier 228-212NG.

Both of those aircraft are priced at $US 7.0+ million today, yes very expensive for a unpressurized 19 seat turboprop, and why a used DHC-6-300 is $US +2.5m used today for a 30-40 year old aircraft, as there is no new option available today at a reasonable price.

The FAA certified Y-12E is reportedly priced at $US +3.5m, though the Chinese have exported around 130 Y-12 since the 1980’s and produced 200, many sales were “donations” or “gifts” to poor third world nations military air arms. In fact, As of this year, only 31 commercial operated Y-12’s operate globally, and 17 of those are in China with China Flying Dragon General Aviation and Ying An Airlines, the remaining 7 civilian operators are small operators in Africa, Pacific and South America and operate just 14 aircraft.

Air Kiribati (1 x II model)

Air Vanuatu (2 x IV models)

Lignes Aerienne Congolaises (2 x IV models)

Uganda Air Cargo (2 x IV models)

Nepal Airlines (3 x E models)

Real Tonga (3 x IV models)

Satena (Colombia) (1 x E model)


Clearly, to date the Y-12 has not been a commercial success, many airlines have abandoned or returned the aircraft or have not taken delivery of them for various reasons like:

Aero Bengal (Bangladesh), Trans Air Congo, Dirgantara Air Service (Indonesia), Sabang Raya Charters (Indonesia), Lao Airlines, Berjava (Malaysia), MIAT (Mongolia), Airlines of Tonga, etc.

There have been 7 civilian and 5 military fatal crashes of the Y-12, the most recent was this year on May 12 of a Kenyan Air Force (KAF) Y-12, this was the second fatal crash of a KAF Y-12. The worst fatal crash of a Y-12 occurred on May 26, 1998 when a MIAT (Mongolia) Y-12 crashed in icing conditions, 28 dead on a 19 seat aircraft ! overloading off course was the issue there.

Harbin did deliver 100+ Y-12 to the following military and paramilitary units for light transport, communication, patrol, training and liaison duties:

Cambodia, Eritrea, Guyana, Iran, Kenya, Mauritania, Myanmar, Namibia, Pakistan, Paraguay, Peru, Sr Lanka, Tanzania, Uganda, Democratic Congo and the Seychelles. In the Seychelles deal for example, the 2 Y-12’s were ‘donated’ to the Coast Guard, and probably in most of the  above countries, the aircraft were a ‘gift’ from the People’s Republic of China PRC.



Of the 130+ exported Y-12’s since 1984 (30 years of production) the above photo (Nepalese Y-12) reflects how most Y-12’s have ended up, the low acquisition price or no price for many third world customers meant little was spent on maintenance and support for too long and eventually abandoned, parted out and left to rot, free does not mean there is no investment and money needed to keep the aircraft airworthy. While I do not have experience with the Y-12, my work with Air Guinee many years involved the sole Y-7-100 (early version of the MA60).

Since Guinea was the only Maoist (Chinese warped version of communism) African state under its dictator Sekou Toure (1958-1984) (just as Albania was in Europe), they got one ‘free’ Y-7-100 from the People’s Republic of China (PRC), after a few months the horrible Chinese made Dongang WJ5A engines (2,400 shp) all gave out way before any overhaul times and the aircraft never flew again, I saw it in the hangar every day covered by years of dust and sand, I tried to get a MA60 in trade for the Y-7-100 but even the low cost offered by PRC was too high for Air Guinee, I understand Mauritania also had the misfortune of operating a Y-7 as well, the Y-7 operation brought to light the Arab phrase “Inshallah” (God Willing) when on a good day it was operational.


Small diversion to politics of giving aircraft as “gifts”, the People’s Republic of China and Taiwan have been competing for diplomatic allies and recognition since 1948, and much of the completion has been in the third world, and most of the competition was in short, which ‘China” gave more in foreign aid for the diplomatic recognition at the U.N. The People’s Republic of China has been winning that war with billions in foreign aid to the third world, and this “checkbook diplomacy” has shown it works.  As major countries began to shift recognition to the PRC following the U.S. opening to China in the early 1970s, Taiwan adopted the practice of pursuing “unofficial” economic and cultural ties with those countries that officially recognized the PRC.

The end of the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet Union led more countries to shift recognition from Taiwan to the PRC. By 2008, only 23 countries in Africa, Central America and the South Pacific formally recognized Taiwan. Beginning in 1993, China also adopted a more pragmatic approach to economic relations with Taiwan’s allies. Despite this newfound pragmatism, both Beijing and Taipei continued to woo countries in hopes they would shift diplomatic recognition, drawing international condemnation for supporting corrupt dictators and sustaining regimes with bad governance and human rights practices.

Recently Gambia (whose President is a dictator that believes he can cure HIV) severed diplomatic ties with Taiwan (officially the Republic of China, or ROC) on November 14, 2013 and announced its intent to establish diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China (PRC). Many analysts interpreted the announcement as a revival of the Taiwan-China competition for diplomatic allies. However, an unexpected wrinkle occurred: Beijing has not accepted Gambia’s offer. China’s response shows that Beijing currently places a higher priority on making progress in cross-Strait relations than on isolating Taiwan, for now.

So we have the Y-12E coming to the US (maybe) as we need to see if this Coptervision is for real. I have seen the aircraft up close, its quality of workmanship is poor, and you can see it in the photos I will attach, but it is low cost, powered by PT6’s, with western avionics, fixed gear and unpressurized, it should be easy to maintain.

Now back to the Y-12F, the aircraft looks good, it is no Y-12 for sure, looks cleaner, more aerodynamic and modern in design. The aircraft will be certified to FAR 23 Amendment 55, when that will be is a big question, surely not mid-2015, the Chinese are still certifying the ARJ-21 regional airliner, 8+ years into it even after 4,800 hours of flight testing and with work on the MA700 regional airliner and the C919 narrow body jet airliner under way, the so called Y-12F will be down the ‘pecking order’, and it could be years, like 2019 at best.



The Y-12F (should be the Y-13) looks good, like bigger Dornier 228. I hope the Chinese certify this aircraft, the global regional airlines are in need of new 10-40 seat aircraft.


The aircraft will have a MTOW of 8,400 Kg, BEW of 4,800 Kg, Max payload of 3,000 Kg and a max cruise of 260 kts. Seating is for a maximum of 25 passengers at 27” pitch (too tight), and 19 passengers at 29” pitch, and seating is 2+1 in the 1.9 meter wide cabin.

If anyone thinks the Y-12F is comparable to the Y12E, note that the Y-12F has a 48% higher MTOW, 51% higher payload, climbs 32% faster, so the Y-12 designation is deceiving, it should be the Y-13, as it is a totally different aircraft.

The 19 passenger Y-12E does have the Viking DHC-6 Series 400 as competition, but then there is the Polish PZL M28, the Czech L-420NG and RUAG 228NG, with a possibility we may one day see the GAF N24A Nomad resurrected as the Gipps Aero GA-18.


pzl m28-4LET-420RUAG 228-1

The PZL M28 from Poland (top photo left) price is around $US +6.5m marketed by Lockheed Martin as off set to Poland buying it’s F-16’s, it is a true STOL aircraft and 62 M28’s have been built, many going to US government agencies/special ops, etc. Only 9 M28’s are forecast to be produced in the next 9 years by Forecast Internationl.

The Czech, Aircraft Industries L-420 (above photo center) is a new version of the Let-410 of which 1,100+ were built, making it the most successful 19 seat regional airliner in the world, though few in the west know it, the aircraft is FAA certified, the new L-420NG version will have GE H85 engines, wet wing no tip tanks anymore, and Avia 5 bladed prop, max. cruise 214 kts, 1,837′ takeoff distance ISA, SL and 820nm range with a cabin of 632 ft3, price around $US +4.5m, the company is 100% owned by Russia’s UGMK since Sept/2013. Forecast International predicts 170 deliveries over the next 10 years.

The RUAG 228NG is a Swiss revival of the Dornier 228-212, major change is 5 bladed prop, new avionics and aerodynamic changes to the wing, price $US +7.5m. These are all un-pressurized utility aircraft that compete with the Y-12E and the Viking Twin Otter Series 400, but all are very costly, if the Chinese can price the Y-12E well, it could do reasonably well, the past 4 years 8 of the aircraft have been delivered and Venezuela ordered 8 new 228-212NG’s in 2013 plus 2 pre-owned Do228-212’s for transport within Venezuela. In the 1990’s I was involved with Dornier and local airline Aereotuy, which operated 4 D0228-212’s on sched tourist flights and did very well there, I predict up to 25 228NG’s over the next 10 years will be produced, too expensive, so limited to Government orders (fisheries, coastal patrol, surveillance, transport duties).


Forecast International predicts that ONLY 58 Y12-II/IV/E models will be built in the next 10 years, or 6 a year at best ? which shows little confidence in the aircraft’s appeal, but I believe that if they can pull off a Y-12 in North America, there could be  market of up to 40 over the next 10 years in North America alone, if the aircraft if the aircraft can stay around $US 3.8m in price and support is good. I think the aircraft can do 15-18 international sales per year, with good western sales, marketing and support, with P&W PT6A-135 engines and western avionics and a fixed gear, there is not much spares support needed from China, the Chinese need to learn how to see commercial aircraft, and this Y-12E will do well.

The 19 seat un-pressurized regional turboprop market is not big, but I have documented a forecast of 452 aircraft over the next 10 years with the help of Forecast International (187 x Viking DHC-6-400, 58 x Y-12’s, 9 x M28’s, 170 x L-410/420’s, 28 x 228’s) and I think this will be even higher as Y-12E sales will pick up, the GA18 (ex-GAF N24A) market entry is questionable at the moment and too early to know if Evektor Aircraft will stretch the EV-55 into a 18 pax aircraft as planned.

While the new L-420NG eventual market penetration into North America and the large Russian market with the new GE H85 engines could be very big if done properly (always a question mark for Eastern European/Russian OEM’s), so over the next 10 years production of 19 passenger un-pressurized aircraft could hit as high as 525 aircraft, or $3.2+ billion in sales over the next 10 years, or 53 aircraft a year.

We will keep an eye on the development of this Y-12 story, and see how it plays out, but I am not optimistic, too many things seem out of place or just missing in this story. Love to see the Y-12E in North America as well as the Y-12F but certification will be long. Either way, it is good to see the 19 seat un-pressurized market slowly awakening, because the aircraft are needed by many operators all over the world.

Thank you for reading my blog, comments welcome as always.







About Aviation Doctor - Helping aviation companies to transform the present into a more profitable tomorrow

I am a Canadian and EU national with an MBA and 33+ years experience in aviation business development with 20 years overseas and work in 30+ countries. A former investment/merchant banker (mergers and acquisitions to corporate turnarounds). airline and OEM senior executive and past owner of 6 successful aviation companies in 3 countries (executive jet charter/management companies, aircraft sales, aircraft broker, airline/aerospace consulting to aircraft insurance). I have a very diverse aviation background with 75+ aviation companies (50+ airlines of all sizes, OEM's, airports, lessors, MRO to service providers) as consultant, executive management, business analyst and business development adviser. Excellent success track record in International Business Development. Most work with airlines is with new start-ups and restructuring of troubled carriers. I sold new business jets, turboprops and helicopters for Cessna, Raytheon, Gulfstream to Eurocopter as an ASR as well as undertaking sales and marketing of commercial aircraft for Boeing, de Havilland, Dornier, Saab and Beechcraft. Brokered everything from LET-410's to B747's and from piston PA31 to G550 business jets. I look beyond the headlines of the aviation news and analyze what the meaning and consequences of the new information really means. There is a story behind each headline that few go beyond. Picked the name Aviation Doctor, as much of my work has been with troubled companies or those that want and need to grow profitably. I fix problems in the business for a better tomorrow. You can reach me with comments or suggestions at: Tomas.Aviation@gmail.com I write a lot of Articles and Posts on LinkedIN: https://www.linkedin.com/in/tomas-chlumecky-3200a021/


4 thoughts on “SUMMARY: On the Chinese Harbin Y-12, Coptervision, an unknown US company (rumored to be Vision Airlines) has apparently “ordered” 20 of the only FAA certified Chinese civilian airliner, the Harbin (HAIC) Y-12E which was certified back in 1995 as the Y-12-IV. Is the aircraft cominging to the USA ? or is this another “ruse” as the same big order was placed by a unknown Canadian company last year and nothing has happened since. What is the Y-12E and Y-12F and can they both be on the same Type Certificate when they are two different aircraft ? is it any good ? and why has no ‘western’ country imported one 19 years after certification ? is this a major breakthrough for the Chinese ? Clearly the rugged Y-12E has good sales potential (PT6A-135 engine, western avionics, fixed gear), but it is not marketed or promoted very well, in fact the Chinese do not know how to sell commercial aircraft and they better learn before they start production of the Comac C919 and Avic MA700. Finally a quick a look at the state of the 19 seat un-pressurized market today, what is out there today and what new aircraft are coming to the market and what sells and what does not.

  1. Yes, the Y-12F does have a lavatory, and seating for up to 24, not sure if this is going to get FAA certification, Part 23 or Part 25 ? in this industry you either build to 19 passenger seats and then 30, anything in between is “inefficient” as above 19 you have to go to Part 25 certification, lot more complex.


    Posted by Aviation Doctor - Helping aviation companies to transform the present into a more profitable tomorrow | October 22, 2015, 1:35 pm
  2. Excellent article. Does the Y12F have a lavatory?


    Posted by B.E. Radtke | October 22, 2015, 1:17 pm
  3. Thank you for that reply, must have been interesting flying Chinese airliners, the MA60 had had its share of accidents, just last week in China was another one. The Y-12E is a good competitor to the DHC-6-400 from Viking, I have been trying to acquire 2-3 for a client of mine that wants to replace his Twin Otters, BUT the Chinese sadly know ZIP about sales, marketing, airline needs. I have been frustrated with their communication and not getting me the information I need to make an analysis of its airfield performance so crucial in 2 of my clients airports, they really need to change their marketing and sales. Thanks for your comments, and more comments on the MA60 or Y-12E would be appreciated, cheers. and thanks.


    Posted by Aviation Doctor - Helping aviation companies to transform the present into a more profitable tomorrow | May 13, 2015, 12:31 am
  4. Thank you for this interesting article. I flew the MA60 for 4 years, and for the past 6 months I have been flying a Y12E. I personally have never had any major problems with these aircraft. Like any aircraft, if properly maintained and operated, I feel that these Chinese aircraft “do the job”. Sure they are not as refined as their western competitors but you get what you pay for. I hope to see more Chinese aircraft out there providing an option to operators that just can’t afford an ATR or a Twin Otter.


    Posted by Pilot | May 12, 2015, 11:17 pm
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