New Milestone For China – World’s ‘Largest’ Amphibious Aircraft AG600 Conducts Its First Flight With New Configuration

On May 31, a new-configuration variant of China’s AG600 large amphibious aircraft flew for the first time over Zhuhai, South China’s Guangdong Province, reported state-run media, CGTN.  

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The AG600, codenamed “Kunlong,” took off from Zhuhai Jinwan Airport at 10:55 am and conducted a series of test flight missions. It flew for 20 minutes before landing safely, with its entire control system functioning normally. 

According to the Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC), the successful flight heralds a new milestone for the AG600 project and a substantial breakthrough in improving the large amphibious aircraft’s firefighting functional model. 

With a maximum take-off weight of 60 tones and a maximum water-storage capacity of up to 12 tones, this new configuration AG600 aircraft is specifically designed for firefighting missions. It meets China’s need for a large firefighting plane. 

The aircraft is equipped with a pressure cabin, fly-by-wire flight control system, integrated avionics system, and systems for its future firefighting missions.

Key Part Of China’s Emergency-Rescue System

The AG600, along with the Y-20 heavy transporter and the C919 single-aisle passenger plane, is part of China’s major initiative to build a “large aircraft family” independently.

Photo taken on May 31, 2022, shows a full-state new-configuration model of China’s AG600 large amphibious aircraft in Zhuhai, south China’s Guangdong Province.

The aircraft is a critical piece of aviation equipment in China’s emergency-rescue system. According to the AVIC, it is also the first Chinese-made large specialized aircraft built under civil-aircraft airworthiness requirements. 

This new-configuration AG600 amphibious aircraft conducted a successful maiden flight on Tuesday, according to the Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC). Due to the sophisticated nature of the aircraft’s future operations, it will require a variety of testing and must meet stringent standards. 

It can operate in complex weather and environmental circumstances and rescue up to 50 people in a single mission.

The plane is expected to perform firefighting duties and enter service in 2023. The firefighting and rescue variants of the AG600 will be certified by the Civil Aviation Administration of China and delivered in 2024 and 2025, respectively. 

AVIC said that it would aid in the development of the Chinese domestic air-emergency-rescue-product system, with the AG600 project serving as the driving force.  

Capable of supporting China’s Ambitions  

China’s most recent five-year plan, spanning the years 2021 to 2025, recognized the AG600 as a vital program due to the country’s pressing need for an emergency rescue aircraft, as well as the strategic necessity for equipment that can support its bases in the South China Sea.

Aerial view: China’s AG600 amphibious aircraft makes maiden flight from water

The AG600 is a hybrid aircraft that can take off and land on both land and water. It is intended for use in suppressing forest fires, maritime patrols, and search and rescue missions. It might also be used to observe the oceanic environment, explore resources, and transport people between islands. 

The aircraft, if stationed in the southern island province of Hainan, will be likely to reach anywhere in the South China Sea in four hours. It might potentially operate as a cargo or passenger carrier between the region’s Chinese-controlled islands.

The propeller-driven plane, once finished, will be the world’s largest amphibious aircraft, surpassing Japan’s US-2 and Russia’s BE-200.