Two years and seven months after making its maiden flight on land, the Chinese amphibious aircraft AG600 took off for the first time from the ocean on Sunday in Qingdao. Built by AVIC (Aviation Industry Corporation of China), the model is the largest amphibious aircraft in the world, with a maximum take-off weight of 53.5 tons (from land).
According to Chinese media, the AG600 left the Shanzihe airport and made its first landing on the ocean in the Yellow Sea, near the city of Qingdao in northeastern China. Four minutes later, the AVIC aircraft accelerated to take off from the sea for the first time, returning to the starting point.
The test flight, four crew members on board, lasted 31 minutes, said state-owned AVIC planemaker. The AG600 had already performed operations in the water from a reservoir, but it still needed to be tested in the open sea, which offers more critical operating conditions.
With four turboprop engines with six blades, the AG600 was conceived a decade ago with the objective of being an aircraft with several applications, among them firefighting, maritime surveillance, search and rescue, cargo transportation and even passengers. In this configuration, the AVIC plane can carry 50 passengers at a cruising speed of 560 km/h.
The AG600 is slightly larger than the Beriev Be-200es, the only amphibious jet in production in the world, and which has a maximum takeoff weight of 41 tonnes on land. The Russian twin-engine is 32 meters long and almost 33 meters wide while the Chinese turboprop is 37 meters long and 39 meters wide. In addition to the two, Japan also produces the ShinMaywa US-2 turboprop for the country’s defense forces.
Although it has civilian applications, the AG600 is expected to be adopted by the Chinese armed forces in the future as part of the communist government’s strategy of expanding military power.