Work is progessing toward the maiden flight in the first quarter of 2017 of AVIC's AG600 amphibious transport aircraft, one of three large aircraft programs regarded as a national priority (the other two are the Y-20 jet transport and the C919 airliner).

 

The nearly-complete aircraft is housed here at Zhuhai in the hangars of China Aviation Industry General Aircraft Co., Ltd. (CAIGA), which aims to build five aircraft a year when it goes into production.

 

CAIGA says letters of intent have been signed for 17 aircraft, and it sees demand for about 50 AG600s in the domestic market.

 

The aircraft was rolled out amidst much fanfare this July, some seven years after its launch in 2009. At that time the first flight was planned for 2013 and entry into service in 2015, but it appears Avic has taken the extra time to greatly improve the design from what was originally an updated Harbin SH-5 amphibian built in small numbers in the 1970s and 1980s.

 

The AG600 is intended to fill many roles including fighting forest fires, marine monitoring, maritime rights protection and anti-smuggling. Rescuing people at sea has also long been mentioned.

 

Other missions could include carrying supplies to islands and reefs, many of which might not have runways.

In its overland role of firefighting the AG600 water is designed to scoop up 12 tons (26,000 lb.) of water in 20 secs., according to Avic. Its speed will allow it to outperform rotorcraft in the role, and its water capacity will exceed even that of the giant Mil Mi-26 helicopter, which China uses for fighting forest fires.

 

AVIC notes the AG600 consists of more than 50,000 structural and system components, over 90% of which are made domestically.

 

The AG600 features tricycle retractable landing gear, and is powered by four domestic WJ6 engines of 3,126 kw. Externally it is about the size of a Boeing 737, with a takeoff weight of 53.5 tons, maximum cruising speed of 500 km/h, longest flight duration of 12 hours, and maximum range of 4,500 km.

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