Amphibious aircraft AG600 rolls off a production line in Zhuhai, south China's Guangdong Province, July 23, 2016. (Photo: Xinhua)
The world's largest amphibious aircraft, the China-made AG600, is set for its maiden voyages over land in May and on water in the second half of 2017.
Developed by the Aviation Industry Corporation of China, the aircraft has a maximum range of 4,500 km and was made with the purpose of fighting forest fires and performing marine rescues.
Similar in size to the Boeing 737, the AG600 has a maximum takeoff weight of 53.5 tons and a body length of 36.9 meters, with a wingspan of 38.8 meters.
Since the first AG600 was completed in the southern city of Zhuhai in July of last year, preparation for its maiden flight has been ongoing.
The aircraft has now passed the test for autonomous supply of electricity via its own engine, marking that it is now ready for its maiden flight.
"Since the AG600 aircraft was rolled off the assembly line, we've connected it with an electric supply from the ground. We also finished a test of key systems such as the control system, air defense system and hydraulic systems. Furthermore, we've put the aircraft onto the runway and let its four engines run simultaneously. I should say a steady step has been made toward its ground taxi at low, middle and high speed," said Wang Zhenglong, a deputy chief designer of the AG600.
The AG600 is propelled by four China-made turboprop engines with high mounted single-cantilever wings.
It can collect 12 tons of water in 20 seconds and transport up to 370 tons of water, all on a single tank of fuel.
To further prove the aircraft's credibility before taking off over land in mid-May, a full resonance test, which is the last major test designed for the AG600 will be conducted.
"We are scheduled to start the resonance experiment at the end of this month for about 20 days. The date of the flight will be decided by the aircraft's readiness at that point and how quickly pilots can be trained. We are primarily concerned with the performance evaluation, conditions and the safety of the aircraft," explained Wang Shuzhe, the chief engineer of the aircraft project.
Wang added that the maiden flight crew will have three members, who will be selected from a group of eight who are currently receiving training.
With excellent maneuverability and a relatively wide range of search scope, the AG600 is expected to prove useful in marine resource exploitation, marine environmental monitoring, resource detection and transportation.
17 orders have been placed for the model so far.