PHOTO: Author.

Trip Report from Singalaidean Travels.

Last year, I had the chance to experience a rare aircraft type. Behold the Xian MA-60, a turboprop produced by Xi’an Aircraft Industrial Corporation. The safety record of this particular airliner is not rosy at all. As of 2015, having just 110 units ever produced and only 15 years in service, there were 13 accidents involving this particular model. While flying remains the safest mode of transport, such a statistic is worrying.  

For the first time, it took me some deliberation before I booked the flight. The price was pretty reasonable (within 50 USD, if I recall) and the timing was great. I decided to go for it with a friend of mine. 

The Flight

Phnom Penh’s domestic terminal looks pretty airy and modern – miles away from what I expected. Check in was also a very quick affair although we could not be assigned a window each due to weight balancing issues. I was told that I could move seats after takeoff. 

As there was nothing to do in the terminal, we headed straight for the gate. Being a remote gate and having no dedicated gate area, we sat near a cafe selling heavily overpriced food and drinks. The weather took a turn for the worst as our departure time crept nearer – a surefire way to make us worry more! Thankfully, it subsided when it was time for boarding.

Cambodia Bayon Airlines Xian MA-60 tail. PHOTO: Author.

The tarmac was still wet from the rain which has stopped. Having a light load today, boarding did not take very long and soon we were taxiing to the runway for takeoff. During the climbout, we were afforded with splendid views of the Cambodian rural landscape. Water and wet tissues were then handed out as soon as the seatbelt signs went off.

Cambodian landscape. PHOTO: Author.

As we were about halfway through the flight, I noticed that there was a flap dangling from the wing. I had no idea what was it but it got retracted shortly after.

I also noticed that the window shades had trouble staying up by itself.

We were then “greeted” with heavy turbulence all the way down to Siem Reap. It was probably not so heavy but clearly our small plane is being tossed around pretty violently sometimes. It lasted for a minimum of 20 minutes and the cabin was totally silent. Some passengers across the aisle started praying and soon myself inclusive. It was thankfully over and nothing else happened.

I heaved a sigh of relief once we landed. I am glad that I experienced the Xian MA-60 this time but I do not see myself voluntarily getting on one anytime soon. 

In Summary 

This flight was memorable in both good and bad ways. I had never gotten genuinely worried that something might happen to the plane on any flights in my lifetime but this has to take credit for it. Putting any safety issues aside, if you are a thrill seeker looking to log the Xian MA-60, your best bet for it would be Cambodia Bayon Airlines as they fly them between 2 major cities in Cambodia while they are used for “feeder” routes elsewhere.