China's AG600 Mega Seaplane Prepares For First Flight

 - May 13, 2017, 2:58 PM
Avic is preparing the new AG600 amphibian for a first flight.

Claimed to be the world’s largest seaplane, China’s AG600 amphibian carried out its first high speed taxi test at Avic’s facility in Zhuhai on April 29. The taxi run validated the aircraft’s steering, trimming and braking capability as it made a 180 degrees turn after a straight run.

According to Avic, the AG600’s brakes and engines performed well during the test, clearing the way for further ground evaluations ahead of a planned first flight from land in late May, followed by a subsequent takeoff from sea during the second half of 2017. Avic has shortlisted eight test pilots, although only three will make the debut flight.

State-owned Avic rolled out the AG600 in July 2016 and gave it a public debut at November’s Airshow China in Zhuhai. The AG600 has a length of 121 feet (36.9 meters), wingspan of 127 feet (38.8 meters), a maximum take off weight (MTOW) 117,700 pounds (53.5 metric tons) on land and is powered by four six-bladed WJ-6 turboprop engines. In comparison, the Japanese ShinMaywa US-1A amphibian has a MTOW of 99,000 pounds (45 metric tons).

Video film released by the Chinese state media revealed a modern glass cockpit, with six multi-function displays. According to the government, the AG600 is primary intended for roles such as for fire fighting, maritime search and rescue, as well as environmental monitoring and protection. However, other possible uses could include military supply and patrol operations in support of China’s growing maritime presence. Avic claims to have commitments from the Chinese government for 17 of the new amphibian, as well as expressions of interest from prospective export customers.

In its fire fighting role, the aircraft is able to scoop up 26,400 pounds (12 metric tons) of water in 20 seconds, before dropping it over an area around the size of a football field. According to Avic chief designer Huang Lingcai, the AG600 can operate in around 75 to 85 percent of typical weather conditions in the South China Sea. For search and rescue operations, it is designed to withstand sea states three to four, including waves of up to 13 feet (2 meters). The aircraft has seating capacity for 50 passengers.