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Buried in the last paragraph of a short article inside the August 2022 issue of its official journal, Comac apparently confirmed that the MA700 regional turboprop of China’s Xian Aircraft Company has, in fact, flown. The fate of the prototype has been the subject of intense speculation, amid a geopolitical environment that had prevented its Canadian engines from being exported for the aircraft.

For the past year, The Air Current has been following clues of the aircraft’s fate, when social media chatter had suggested that the aircraft potentially took flight in late September 2021. There was little evidence beyond selected comments to confirm the aircraft had flown, but in November the prototype was photographed from orbit on the ramp at China’s ultra-secret Yanlian Air Base in Xian, where the country manufactures both commercial and military aircraft.

Related: MA700 turboprop resurfaces in China with chatter about a secret first flight

The deepening mystery is not only a technical and industrial one, but has significant geopolitical implications as Chinese leader Xi Jinping advances the company’s national aerospace priorities at the start of his unprecedented third term. China has invested heavily in commercial aerospace as it aims to become a provider of aircraft to itself, but had previously relied on greater cooperation from western suppliers for technology like avionics and engines.

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Jon Ostrower is Editor-in-chief of The Air Current. Prior to launching TAC in June 2018, Ostrower served as Aviation Editor for CNN Worldwide, guiding the network's global coverage of the business and operations of flying. Ostrower joined CNN in 2016 following four and half years at the Wall Street Journal. Based first in Chicago and then in Washington, D.C. he covered Boeing, aviation safety and the business of global aerospace. Before that, Ostrower was editor of the award-winning FlightBlogger for Flightglobal and Flight International Magazine covering the development of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner and other new aircraft programs from 2007 to 2012. Ostrower, a Boston native, graduated from The George Washington University's School of Media and Public Affairs with a bachelor's degree in Political Communication. He is based in Seattle.

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