TWO NEW AVIC I (Xian) MA60 passenger and cargo transport aircraft were finally delivered to the Fuerza Aerea Boliviana (FAB -Bolivian Air Force) in February after a number of delays (see News Briefs, December, p17, and January, p17). Carrying temporary Chinese delivery registrations B-850L and B-858L, and using callsigns ‘SXA442’ and ‘SXA443’ respectively, they were flown from China to Bolivia by pilots from Southern Cross Aviation Inc of Camarillo, California.
Their initial routing from the Xian factory is unconfirmed, but they are reported to have been delayed for some time by bad weather in the country. Arriving in the USA via Anchorage, Alaska, they left there on February 5 for Yakutat Airport, also in Alaska, before continuing to Snohomish County Airport/ Paine Field, Everett, Washington. The next day they departed for Camarillo Airport, California, for a further night stop before flying on via El Paso International Airport, Texas, to Brownsville/South Padre Island International Airport, also in Texas.
On February 8 the MA60s left for Philip S W Goldson International Airport, Belize, and then continued onwards into South America before finally arriving in Bolivia.
A formal ceremony was held at Santa Cruz/Viru Viru Airport on February 21 to officially incorporate the two MA60s into the fleet of Transporte Aereo Militar (TAM)/ Grupo Aereo de Transporte 71, the FAB’s commercial transport division. Both aircraft now wear military markings: one has become FAB-96, although the serial of the other is as yet unconfirmed. TAM is run by the FAB as a non-profit making carrier, operating scheduled passenger and cargo flights to remote parts of the country. Although the ceremony was held at Santa Cruz, TAM’s fleet normally operates from Base Aerea Walter Arce, El Alto, La Paz.