A four-engine amphibious aircraft, said to be the world’s largest and roughly the size of a Boeing 737, took its maiden flight in the coastal Chinese city of Zhuhai.
The AG600, piloted by four crew members, took off from an airport in the city of Zhuhai, Guangdong province, and remained in the air for about one hour before landing at the same airfield.
CGTN showed live footage of the AG600 lifting off from Zhuhai, located on the South China Sea coast. State media also claim that the AG600, which is roughly the size of a Boeing 737, is now the world’s largest amphibious aircraft, surpassing Japan’s ShinMaywa US-2 and the Russian-made Beriev Be-200.
Powered by four turboprop engines, the AG600 can airlift up to 50 people, and is capable of scooping up 12 tons of water in 20 seconds during firefighting missions, according to state media. The aircraft, which can cover a distance of more than 4,500 kilometers (2,800 miles), is able to take off and land on both ground and water.
Government-run Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC) has been developing the aircraft for almost eight years. The manufacturer says the flying boat “will be of great importance to the country’s emergency rescue system and the building of strong sea power,” China Daily reports.
The AG600, due to its amphibious capability, may potentially be deployed to the South China Sea, where Beijing has territorial spats with neighboring Vietnam, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan, and Brunei, Reuters reports, citing state media.
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Huang Lingcai, the AG600’s chief designer, told China Daily earlier this month that the flying boat can make round trips without refueling from the southern island province of Hainan to James Shoal, which is located close to Sarawak in Malaysian Borneo, but also claimed by China.
AVIC began development of the AG600 back in 2009. Construction of its first prototype began in March 2014 and was completed in July 2016. In April, the flying boat successfully performed its first taxiing test, and in early December, the government approved its maiden flight.
The corporation says it will carry on with test flights and will soon launch certification procedures for the AG600.