Following a series of successful ground evaluations, the AG600 manufactured by Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC, China’s state-owned aerospace conglomerate) is expected to take off from land for the first time later this month. It’s first departure from sea is planned a few months later, during the second half of this year.
Touted as the largest seaplane in the world, the AG600 measures 36.9 meters in length, and has wingspan of 38.8 meters. Think about it like a functional “Spruce Goose” intended for serial production and regular use –AVIC reportedly has seventeen orders so far.
Although marketed primarily as a firefighting aircraft for its ability to take off and land on water, and scoop up 12 tonnes of water in a matter of seconds, the AG600 will find other utility roles as well, including military cargo and passenger transprort. Equipped with four WJ-6 turboprop engines, the aircraft boasts a maximum takeoff weight of 53.5 tonnes and with transport configurations that offer capacity to carry up to 50 passengers. According to China’s official Xinhua news agency, the AG600 “could potentially extend the Asian giant’s ability to conduct a variety of operations in the South China Sea, where it has built a series of artificial islands featuring air strips, among other infrastructure with the potential for either civilian or military use.”
This amphibious transporter, is one of four large-scale Chinese aircraft projects which will soon vie its place in the global market as the country works toward developing a modern aircraft manufacturing industry. The other three are:
- The ARJ21 (Advanced Regional Jet for the 21st Century) recently entered commercial service with launch customer Chengdu Airlines.
- The COMAC C919, a 168-passenger narrowbody, which was rolled out in November 2016, and completed its maiden flight earlier this month. China Eastern Airlines, the launch customer for the C919 is expected to take delivery of the aircraft and put it into service by 2020 – four years behind schedule.
- The Y-20, a 66 tonne payload heavy transport, entered service with China’s military in early July. Non-military carriers in China including Guangzhou-based cargo startup, Longhao Aviation Group have orders and options for the Y-12. Carriers outside of China have also begun to take an interest in the aircraft. Florida-based Aztec Airways is purported to be mulling over an order for the freighter variant of the aircraft.