BEIJING – This week, the world’s largest amphibious aircraft, the Chinese-made AG600, carried out its maiden flight in Zhuhai, a coastal city in Guangdong province.
An AG600, piloted by four crew members, took off from the Zhuhai Jinwan Airport on Sunday at 9:50 am and remained airborne for about an hour before returning.
A congratulatory letter sent by the Communist Party of China Central Committee and the State Council was read out at a ceremony to mark the maiden flight, attended by Vice-Premier Ma Kai and Guangdong Party chief Li Xi, as well as hundreds of other officials and about 3,000 spectators.
The central government approved development of the AG600 in June 2009, with the work taken on by Aviation Industry Corp of China, the country’s leading aircraft maker. Construction on the first prototype began in March 2014 and was completed in July 2016.
In April, the first ground taxiing test was successful. Earlier this month, the seaplane received the government’s approval for Sunday’s first flight.
The AG600 is one of the three large-size aircraft borne from the nation’s ambitious effort to become a top-tier player in the global aviation sector, joining the Y-20 strategic transport plane, delivery of which to the Chinese Air Force began in July 2016, and the C919 narrow-body jetliner that is being flight tested.
The amphibious aircraft will mainly be tasked with performing aerial firefighting and maritime search and rescue. It can also be refitted to conduct marine environmental inspection, marine resources surveying and personnel and supply transportation, according to the manufacturer.