China Central Television (CCTV) reported that in a recent mission abroad, a Y-9 transport aircraft of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) broke several records by taking off and landing in an airfield in a high-elevation plateau region and flying for nearly 40 consecutive hours and more than 10,000 km. The aircraft is affiliated to an aviation regiment under the Air Force of the PLA Western Theater Command, which is also the first PLA unit that completed takeoff and landing operations with a domestically developed transport aircraft in an airport at an elevation above 2,438 meters. Takeoff and landing in high-elevation plateau regions are affected by several factors, including challenging terrains and atmospheric pressure.
The Shaanxi Y-9 (Yùn-9) is a medium military transport aircraft produced by Shaanxi Aircraft Company in China. It is a stretched and upgraded development of the Shaanxi Y-8F. The Y-9 is designed for 25 tons of cargo but can reportedly carry up to 30 tons. The cargo bay has an internal volume of 155 m3 and is fitted with cargo handling rollers and tie-down rings. The rear entrance to the cargo bay also functions as a ramp. The aircraft can fit up to 106 passengers, 132 paratroopers, or 72 stretchers. For vehicles, it can carry two para-droppable ZBD-03 airborne combat vehicles as well as various other military equipment such as light trucks, cargo containers or pallets. Some special purpose variants such as the Y-9G (GX-11) have the rear ramp door removed.
Development of the Y-9 may have begun as early as 2002 as the Y-8X program. The program was a collaborative effort with Antonov – the designers of the An-12 that it was ultimately derived from – and was aimed at competing with the Lockheed Martin C-130J Super Hercules. By September 2005, the Y-9 designation was being used. The Y-9 is powered by four WoJiang WJ-6C turboprop engines. The propellers are six-bladed and made with Chinese JL-4 composites, and closely resemble the Dowty R406. The WJ-6C is replaced by the Pratt & Whitney Canada PW150B in the Y-9E export variant. The cruise speed is 300 knots (560 km/h; 350 mph) with an endurance of around 10.5 hours. The Y-9 entered People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) service in 2012, with full operating capability being announced in December 2017.