Aviation Industry Corp of China (AVIC) announced its large amphibious aircraft, the AG600, had completed its first sea-based test flight on Sunday.
The test flight demonstrated the aircraft's ability to operate in challenging maritime conditions and conduct missions, including far sea cargo transport and maritime emergency rescue, the manufacturer said.
The seaplane took off from waters near the coastal city of Qingdao, East China's Shandong Province, on the morning of July 26. It flew for 31 minutes during which it finished a set of test maneuvers and then landed at an airport in Rizhao.
Prototype of the jet had already made 172 preparatory flights that lasted 308 hours. There are two AG600 prototypes under testing – one for flight tests and another for ground-based static tests.
Construction of the first prototype began in March 2014 and was completed in July 2016. The aircraft took to the skies for the first time the following year in December. Ten months later, it carried out the first water-based takeoff and landing on the Zhanghe Reservoir in Jingmen, Central China's Hubei province.
With a length of 37 meters and a wingspan of 38.8 meters, the AG600 is roughly the size of a Boeing 737. Powered by four domestically designed WJ-6 turboprop engines, it has a maximum takeoff weight of 53.5 metric tons. These specifications make it the world's biggest amphibious aircraft, surpassing Japan's ShinMaywa US-2 and Russia's Beriev Be-200.
The AG600 will mainly be tasked with performing aerial firefighting and maritime search and rescue. It also can be refitted to conduct marine environmental inspections and marine resource surveys, as well as personnel and supply transportation, AVIC said in a statement.
The aircraft is designed for both land and water takeoffs and landings and has an operational range of about 4,500 kilometers. It is capable of carrying 50 people during a maritime search and rescue mission.
When assigned to fight forest fires, it can collect 12 tons of water from a lake or sea in 20 seconds and then use the water to douse blazes over an area of about 4,000 square meters.