The Chinese Y-12E twin turboprop, going on a decade of service as a utility and commuter plane, will be fitted as a seaplane under a contract announced Thursday between AVIC Joy Air Holdings and Edo Floats of Kenmore, Washington. Edo, a subsidiary of seaplane operator Kenmore Air, has subcontracted with an unnamed Seattle company to construct 100 sets of carbon-fiber straight floats over about two years. State-owned AVIC, whose subsidiary Harbin builds the 19-seat Y-12E, has ambitious plans to be the largest seaplane operator in China if not the world, said Patrick Carroll of AVIC Joy. AVIC has expanded seaplane operations in recent years, opening bases from Zhejiang to Fuzhou and along China’s southeastern coastal regions.
Eric Johanson, president of Kenmore Air Edo Floats, said Edo will prepare for manufacturing in the next one to two months and build a set of floats for test flying, with a target of starting production in the next 18 to 24 months. Edo’s relationship with China isn’t new, Johanson said. The company has been building floats at AVIC’s Hongdu manufacturing facility for about 10 years. Also, Kenmore is among the companies that have assisted AVIC in training for charter and other aviation operations.