China-Developed AG600 Amphibious Aircraft Succeeds in Maiden Flight Over Sea
(Source: Xinhua; published July 26, 2020)
The AG 600 seaplane developed by the Aviation Industry Corporation of China finally made its first flight taking off from the sea on July 26, following its first flight in 2017 and the first flight from a reservoir in 2018. (Twitter photo)
QINGDAO, China --- China's indigenously-developed AG600 large amphibious aircraft succeeded in its maiden flight over sea on Sunday morning in Qingdao, east China's Shandong Province, its developer announced.

The aircraft took off from the sea off Qingdao at 10:18 a.m. and completed the test flight after flying for about 31 minutes, said state-owned plane-maker Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC).

The successful maiden flight from the sea is a major step forward in the development of this large amphibious aircraft following its maiden flight in 2017 and first takeoff from a water reservoir in 2018, said the AVIC.

Special Missions

The successful maiden flight paved the way for the aircraft to undergo the following phases of test flights over sea and verification of its performance as an amphibious aircraft.

The AG600, together with the Y-20 large transporter and C919 single-aisle passenger airplane, is part of China's key project of independently-developed "large aircraft family."

Codenamed Kunlong, the AG600 is a key aeronautical equipment in China's emergency rescue system, said the AVIC.

The AG600 is designed to meet the country's demands for forest firefighting, marine rescue and other critical emergency rescue missions.

It is also the first time that China's aviation industry has developed a special-mission large civil aircraft model.

To prepare for the maiden sea takeoff, the AVIC completed multiple test flights over sea so that crew members could become familiar with the air and marine environment, according to the developer.

The development team and test flight team have optimized the aircraft, trained test flight pilots and made preparations for test flights in a maritime environment.

Great Potential

Starting in 2009, the AG600 amphibious airplane project has been designed with the potential to have multiple variants, seeking to continuously meet various demands of customers, said the AVIC.

The multi-tasking amphibious plane can take off and land on both ground and water, thus packing more potential for various missions.

With long-range and long-haul capabilities, the AG600 can efficiently shuttle between the fire site and water source, each time carrying as much as 12 tonnes and dropping water over an area of 4,000 square meters.

The AG600 is designed to operate in complex weather and environment conditions. In rescue missions, it can conduct low altitude water surface search and anchor for water and maritime rescue missions. The aircraft is capable of rescuing up to 50 people on each mission.

Besides roles in firefighting and water rescue, the AG600 aircraft can be modified or fitted with more facilities to meet customers' special mission requirements, according to the AVIC.

The AVIC will facilitate further development of the AG600 project. The development team will focus on the firefighting-type of AG600 aircraft, which is expected to be completed by 2023, said the Chinese plane-maker.


(EDITOR’S NOTE: Having analyzed the photographs and video of this first takeoff at sea, the India Today website has concluded that the even was not the success that Chinese media made it out to be.
Furthermore, it questions whether the aircraft could take off: “Such an aircraft taking off in rough weather with a load, especially during emergencies, appears to be very difficult task now,” given the length of its take-off run and the sea state.
The fact that it Sunday’s take-off from the sea took place three years after its first flight, and fully two years after its first water take-off from a reservoir, also suggests that flight-testing may have revealed some unexpected problems that required long fixes.
Click here for the full story, on the India Today website.)


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AG600 Seaplane's Test Flight Marks Milestone
(Source: China Daily; issued July 27, 2020)
China's AG600 seaplane conducted its first sea-based test flight on Sunday morning, marking a new milestone in the program.

The AG600 prototype used for the test flight, operated by four crew members, took off at 9:28 am from Shanzihe Airport in Rizhao, Shandong province, and landed at 10:14 am on a designated area of the Yellow Sea off the neighboring city of Qingdao after a 46-minute flight.

The amphibious aircraft sailed on the waters and then took off at 10:18 am to fly back to Shanzihe Airport. It completed a number of test assignments during the operation, according to Aviation Industry Corp of China, the State-owned conglomerate that designed and built the seaplane.

The AG600 is China's second amphibious aircraft, after the SH-5, which was developed in the 1970s for military purposes and has been retired for a long time. With a length of 37 meters and a wingspan of 38.8 meters, the AG600 is roughly the size of a Boeing 737.

Powered by four domestically designed WJ-6 turboprop engines, it has a maximum takeoff weight of 53.5 metric tons. These specifications make it the world's biggest amphibious aircraft, surpassing Japan's ShinMaywa US-2 and Russia's Beriev Be-200.

Once in service, it will put an end to the absence of a large rescue aircraft in China and will be very useful in the national emergency rescue and disaster relief systems, said Chen Yuanxian, deputy general manager of AVIC.

The amphibious plane is one of three large-size aircraft to emerge from the nation's efforts to become a top-tier player in the global aviation sector, joining the Y-20 strategic transport plane-delivery of which began in July 2016 to the Chinese Air Force-and the C919 narrow-body jetliner, which is being flight-tested.

Development of the AG600 was approved by the central government in June 2009 and began in September that year. Tens of thousands of researchers and engineers from more than 160 domestic institutes, enterprises and universities took part in the program. Construction of the first prototype began in March 2014 and was completed in July 2016.

The seaplane made its maiden flight in December 2017 in Zhuhai, Guangdong province, taking off and landing at a local airport. Ten months later, it carried out its first takeoff and landing on water at Zhanghe Reservoir in Jingmen, Hubei province.

President Xi Jinping, who is also general secretary of the Communist Party of China Central Committee and chairman of the Central Military Commission, said after the October 2018 water-based test that it was a major achievement in the innovation efforts of the country's aviation industry. He said the seaplane will help improve the emergency rescue and disaster response systems, and encouraged those involved in the AG600 program to continue striving for its success.

The AG600 will mainly be tasked with aerial firefighting and maritime search and rescue. It also can be refitted to conduct marine environmental inspections and marine resource surveys, as well as personnel and supply transportation, according to AVIC.

The aircraft is designed for land and water takeoffs and landings and has an operational range of more than 4,000 kilometers. It can rescue up to 50 people during a maritime search and rescue mission.

For forest fire-fighting, it can collect 12 tons of water from a lake or sea in 20 seconds and use it to douse blazes over an area of about 4,000 square meters, the company said.

Compared with other rescue platforms such as helicopters and ships, the AG600 is faster and has a longer range and greater flexibility. These advantages are very useful when it comes to rapid maritime search and rescue, said Chen from AVIC.

Currently, there are two AG600 prototypes under testing-one in flight tests and the other in ground-based static tests. AVIC plans to manufacture four additional prototypes for testing, designers have said.

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