Meet China’s Massive Turboprop Seaplane: The AVIC AG600 Kunlong

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On July 26th at 10:18, the AG600 conducted its first salt water landing in Qingdao, in eastern China. The flight lasted just over a half-hour. Manufactured by the Chinese state-owned company Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC), the AG600 is described as a large, amphibious, four-propeller aircraft. Let’s find out more about this aircraft and why it was created in the first place.

AG600
The Chinese-built AG600 is the world’s largest amphibious aircraft in production. Photo: Getty Images

AG600 background and development timeline

The AG600 was in development for five years – between 2009 and 2014. In August of 2014, assembly started, and the aircraft was unveiled on July 23rd, 2016, according to website Navy Recognition.

Its maiden flight took place on December 24th, 2017, from Zhuhai Airport, and, as mentioned above, its first salt water landing took place this past July. It is expected to be certified by 2021, with deliveries commencing 2022.

AG600
The development of the AG600 began in 2009. Photo: Getty Images

The AG600 is developed by AVIC – which among other things, also produces multi-purpose fighter jets, military helicopters, airborne weapons, and commercial turboprop aircraft.

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The role and purpose of the AG600

A milestone for China’s aviation industry, the AG600 marks the first time that the country has developed a special-mission large civil aircraft model. Together with the Y-20 large transporter and C919 single-aisle passenger airplane, the AG600 is part of China’s goals of independently developing a “large aircraft family.”

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Very clearly an amphibious aircraft, the AG600 is a multi-role aircraft and will be able to carry out missions including forest firefighting, marine rescue, and other critical emergency rescue services.

Besides roles in firefighting and water rescue, AVIC notes via Xinhua.net that the AG600 aircraft can be modified to meet customers’ special mission requirements. However, for now, the development team is said to be focusing on the firefighting-variant of the AG600.

AG600
The AG600, codenamed ‘Kunlong’ is designed to be both a firefighting and marine search and rescue aircraft. Photo: Getty Images

Business Insider points out that AVIC has secured 17 orders for the plane as of May 2018. Somewhat unsurprisingly, orders so far have all come from Chinese organizations.

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AG600 Specifications

According to Navy Recognition, the AG600 is 36.90 meters (121 feet) long and 12 meters high. Similar to that of a Boeing 737, its wingspan stretches 38.80 meters.

As for capacity, the AG600 can carry 50 passengers at a maximum speed of 500km/h (310 mph). Xinhua.net notes that the aircraft can collect up to 12 tonnes of water – which means that it can disperse the water over an area of 4,000 square meters. Business Insider notes that the four-turboprop aircraft has six blades each.

With a maximum range of approximately 4,500 kilometers, or 2,800 miles – the equivalent distance between Seattle and Miami. This allows the aircraft to fly across much of China – rapidly responding to emergency situations.

However, the large aircraft is limited to conditions where sea waves are no more than 2-meters high.

What do you think of this aircraft? Aside from firefighting and search and rescue, could the plane have any success flying passengers? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

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