Over four years after its first aircraft of the type arrived in Bujumbura, Air Burundi (PBU, Bujumbura) may, at last, deploy the MA-60 into commercial service after the Burundian civil aviation authority (Autorite de l'Aviation Civil du Burundi - AACB) granted the aircraft its Validation of Type Certificate (VTC).

A Burundi government press statement indicates the conveyance of the certificate occurred in early December as confirmed by the country's Minister of Transport, Jean Bosco Ntunzwenimana.

With the VTC in place, the aircraft is now eligible to apply for a Certificate of Airworthiness which, if granted, will enable the aircraft to begin commercial flight operations.

During an EAC-China ATM High Level Forum in Arusha, Tanzania held late last year, the Secretary General of the East African Community (EAC), Liberat Mfumukeko, said the move would now allow the MA-60 to enter service not only in Burundi, but across the rest of the EAC bloc which includes Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, and Rwanda.

"The type acceptance and certification of the MA-60 aircraft opens the doors for EAC and China to expand their cooperation in the aviation sector through various avenues including technology transfer, purchase/lease and operations of Chinese aircraft and parts among others," he said.

Xian Aircraft Company (Xi'an Yanliang) delivered MA-60 9U-BHU (cn 1019) to Burundi in June 2012 but it has sat idle on the ramp at Bujumbura International Airport ever since then. The AACB has, in the past, blamed the delays in the aircraft's type certification on a lack of personnel trained in the Chinese-manufactured turboprop's operations.

For its part, in 2013, Air Burundi enlisted support from one of Africa's two commercial operators of the MA-60 - Air Zimbabwe (UM, Harare Int'l) - to assist in training MA-60 qualified flight- and dispatch-crews. However, given the lack of type certificate, it is uncertain if the contract was ever implemented.