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10:52 AM, March 30, 2017
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China's AG600 Amphibious Aircraft To Make Maiden Flight In May
AG600 Amphibious Aircraft

China will reportedly carry out the maiden flight of its AG600 amphibious aircraft in mid-May.

In February, the Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC) said that the test flight of the aircraft would be conducted in the first half of 2017, not specifying the exact date, Sputnik news reported today.

The aircraft designed for firefighting and rescue missions will hold the first flight over land in May, while the first water takeoff will be held in the second half of 2017.

China is currently conducting tests required to prepare the plane for the flight, the broadcaster added.

AVIC finished manufacturing of the aircraft in July 2016 in the southern Chinese province of Guangdong. The plane has four turboprop engines and has a maximum range of some 2,800 miles.

The AG600 is reportedly the largest amphibious aircraft currently being built. China Aviation Industry General Aircraft (CAIGA), which has commenced work on the prototype AG600, has also mentioned that the aircraft would have a maximum takeoff weight of 53.5 t (53,500 kg; 118,000 lb) and would have a wingspan of 38.8 metres (127 ft).

The first flight was initially forecast for 2015 but was postponed until the first half of 2017. The forward fuselage was completed in 2015. The prototype was rolled out on 23 July 2016 at the Zhuhai AVIC factory.

AG600 will be suitable for aerial firefighting dropping 12 tonnes of water, and search and rescue operations for 50 passengers.

The aircraft could also have strategic value in the South China Sea, which has been subject to various territorial disputes. Few commentaries in China also point out that the aircraft was especially designed to defend China's interests in the South China Sea area.

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