A worker photographs the front of the fuselage of China’s first domestically developed seaplane in Chengdu on March 17. The AG-600 will become the world’s largest amphibious aircraft, surpassing Japan’s ShinMaywa US-2 and Russia’s Beriev Be-200.[Photo/China Daily]
A major part of China’s first domestically developed seaplane rolled off the assembly line on March 17 in Chengdu, Sichuan province, indicating the world’s largest amphibious aircraft is nearing its completion.
The 9.5-meter-long front fuselage is manufactured by Chengdu Aircraft Industry Group and will be delivered to China Aviation Industry General Aircraft in Guangdong’s Zhuhai for the AG-600’s final assembly, which is planned to start around May, said Huang Lingcai, chief designer of the aircraft at the Zhuhai company.
The seaplane’s debut flight will take place in the first half of 2016, he added.
The two companies are owned by Aviation Industry Corp of China, the country’s leading aircraft maker.
“The AG-600 will meet China’s urgent need for such equipment in forest fire control and maritime search and rescue, and it will form an important part of the country’s emergency response and rescue system,” Huang said. “It can carry nearly 60 people during a search-and-rescue mission. To extinguish a forest fire, it can pick up 12 tons of water from a nearby lake or sea within 20 seconds and pour it on the fire.”
Powered by four turboprop engines, the AG-600 will become the world’s largest amphibious aircraft, surpassing Japan’s ShinMaywa US-2 and Russia’s Beriev Be-200, the designer said.
“The aircraft is capable of landing and taking off from an airport or on the sea,” he said.
The AG-600, formerly known as the D-600, will have a maximum takeoff weight of 53.5 metric tons and an operational range of about 4,500 km. It can be used for a variety of operations, such as passenger and cargo transport, resource surveys as well as marine environmental monitoring, in addition to its foremost tasks of firefighting and maritime rescue, according to Leng Yixun, director of general aviation products at AVIC.
“The seaplane’s major users will be government departments such as forestry authorities, the coast guard and maritime safety bureaus. We estimate our country will need at least 100 such seaplanes within the coming 15 years,” he said.
Huang said that the seaplane can fly a round trip between Sanya, Hainan province, and the shoal of Zengmu Ansha, the southernmost point of China’s territory, without refueling.
He added that his company has received 17 orders from domestic customers, including several private general aviation enterprises.
Wang Ya’nan, deputy editor-in-chief of Aerospace Knowledge magazine, said the AG-600 will fill the need for a modern seaplane in China, which he said has long ignored the development of such aircraft.