International News

China makes world’s largest amphibious aircraft, conducts its first flight

China’s home-grown AG600, the world’s largest amphibious aircraft in production, took to the skies on Sunday for its maiden flight.
The plane, codenamed “Kunlong” according to state news agency Xinhua, took off from the southern city of Zhuhai and landed after roughly an hour-long flight.
With a wingspan of 38.8 metres and powered by four turboprop engines, the aircraft is capable of carrying 50 people and can stay airborne for 12 hours.
“Its successful maiden flight makes China among the world’s few countries capable of developing a large amphibious aircraft,” chief designer Huang Lingcai told Xinhua.
The amphibious aircraft has military applications but will be used for firefighting and marine rescue, with at least 17 orders placed so far with state-owned manufacturer Aviation Industry Corp of China, state media reported.
While it is around the size of a Boeing 737, the AG600 is considerably smaller than billionaire Howard Hughes’ flying boat, better known as the Spruce Goose, which had a wingspan of 97 metres and a length of 67 metres but only made one brief flight, in 1947.
The AG600’s flight capabilities put all of China’s island-building projects in the South China Sea well within range.
“Its 4,500-km operational range and ability to land and take off from water makes it well-suited for deployment over China’s artificial islands,” said James Char, a military analyst at Singapore’s Nanyang Tech­nological University.
The aircraft can fly to the southernmost edge of China’s territorial claims — the James Shoal — in just four hours from the southern city of Sanya, state-owned Global Times reported.