BY SILVI WRITER
The world’s large amphibious aircraft AG600, developed by China, completed its first water takeoff and landing in central Chinese province of Hubei on Saturday morning.
The AG600, code-named Kunlong, completed its maiden flight in December 2017.
A large-scale special-purpose civil aircraft, the Boeing 737-sided AG600 was designed to assist with forest firefighting and water rescues, is the third member of China’s “large aircraft family” following the large freighter Y-20 and large passenger aircraft C919.
It will also provide support for China’s marine monitoring and safety patrol, Xinhua News Agency said.
At around 8:51 am on Saturday, the plane took off from the surface of a reservoir near Zhanghe Airport of Jingmen city. It landed smoothly and steadily on water after a 14-minute flight, Xinhua said.
Developed by Aviation Industry Corporation of China, the aircraft is powered by four domestically designed turboprop engines and is roughly the size of a Boeing 737. It has a maximum takeoff weight of 53.5 tonnes.
The aircraft is designed for both land and water takeoffs and landings. The lower part of the aircraft body is designed as a “V” structure to improve its anti-wave ability.
When used to help put out a forest fire, it is able to collect 12 tonnes of water at a time and make multiple trips to fetch water.
The aircraft can carry out sea rescue operations under complex meteorological conditions and can withstand two-meter-high waves. It is capable of carrying 50 people during a maritime search and rescue mission.
The aircraft made its maiden flight, which was broadcast live on Chinese television, from land at Jinwan airport in Zhuhai, south China’s coastal Guangdong province in December 2017.
The AG600 will undertake a range of missions, and its target market is domestic parapublic organisations, according to Flight Global. Its main functions are search and rescue, and transport. The aircraft can also serve as a water bomber, with a large tank located under the forward half of the aircraft.
The certification process, which evaluates the airworthiness of the AG600, is expected to be concluded by 2021 with deliveries commencing in 2022. While no international customer has come forward to date, the Chinese government has placed an order for an initial batch of 17 aircraft, according to the Diplomat.