China's first home-grown large amphibious aircraft AG600 is seen flying in Zhuhai, south China's Guangdong Province, Dec. 24, 2017. (Xinhua/Liu Dawei)
China's first large amphibious aircraft AG600 on Sunday completed its maiden flight in south China's Guangdong Province.
At 9:39 a.m., the aircraft AG600, code named "Kunlong," left Jinwan airport in the city of Zhuhai. The flight lasted about one hour.
"The maiden flight makes China among the few countries capable of developing a large amphibious aircraft," said Huang Lingcai, chief designer of AG600.
The Communist Party of China Central Committee and the State Council congratulated all those engaged in the mission, including those from the Ministry of Industry and Information, the Civil Aviation Administration of China and the Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC).
The congratulatory message said that the maiden flight was a major breakthrough in developing special-purpose aircraft following the maiden flight of the large C919 passenger jet in May.
Its name "Kunlong" stands for a high expectation in Chinese culture with the "kun" meaning an enormous legendary fish and "long," a dragon.
"It has taken eight years to develop the aircraft. It is the result of several generations of Chinese aviation work," said Huang.
The 36.9-meter aircraft is powered by four domestically-built turboprop engines, according to its developer the AVIC. Aviation engines have long been a problem and the AG600 engine is a major step forward.
With a maximum take-off weight of 53.5 tonnes and a maximum cruising speed of 500 kilometers per hour, the AG600 has a range of 12 hours.
Designed to be the world's largest amphibious aircraft, the AG600 will be mainly used for maritime rescue, fighting forest fires and marine monitoring.
It can carry 50 people during search-and-rescue missions, collect 12 tonnes of water in 20 seconds for fire fighting and transport up to 370 tonnes of water on a single tank of fuel.
"Its operational range of more than 4,000 km and ability to land on and take off from water put China's islands in the South China Sea well within range," said Huang.
China released a guideline on large aircraft projects in 2006 which has resulted in three large aircraft models.
In 2013, transport aircraft Y-20 made maiden flight and entered into service with China's air force in July 2016.
In 2017, China' s first domestically-produced large passenger aircraft C919 completed first flight, allowing China entry in a civil aviation market currently monopolized by the Airbus and Boeing.
The AG600 is the third.
"Its successful maiden flight helps China enter the global aviation industry chain," said Chen Mingsheng, one of the designers of the AG600.
The aircraft has already received 17 orders due to its multiple uses and advanced manufacturing technique.