World's Largest Amphibious Plane Readies for Water Trials
China’s AG600, the world’s largest amphibious aircraft, and China's first, made its maiden flight in December last year, and is now being readied for its first water takeoff and landing.
Codenamed Kunlong, the four-engine plane is 36.9 meters long, 12.1 meters tall and has a wingspan of 38.8 meters. It has a maximum take-off weight of 53.5 tons, a top cruising speed of 500 kilometers per hour, and a maximum flight range of 4,500 kilometers (up to 12 hours). The plane can also operate in two-meter-high waves.
Over 95 percent of the plane's 50,000 components were made in China.
Kunlong is designed to perform aerial firefighting and maritime search and rescue. It could also be refitted to conduct marine environmental inspections, marine resource surveys and personnel and supply transportation, according to developers, the Aviation Industry Corp of China. Able to carry 50 people, Kunlong can collect 12 tons of water within 20 seconds, and extinguish a fire area of over 4,000 square meters with one spray.
Its maximum rescue operation radius extends to 1,600 kilometers, which could cover most of China’s sea areas and exclusive economic zones. Chief designer, Huang Lingcai, has been quoted in China Daily saying the aircraft can make round trips from the southern island province of Hainan to James Shoal, a disputed territory in the South China Sea, without needing to refuel.
Development of the AG600 was approved by the central government in June 2009. Construction of the prototype began in March 2014 and was completed in July 2016. Water testing is expected to be undertaken later this year.
The amphibious plane is one of three large-size aircraft to emerge from the nation’s ambition to become a top-tier player in the global aviation sector, joining the Y-20 strategic transport plane and the C919 narrow-body jetliner, which is currently being flight-tested.