Technology

China shows off large amphibious plane

A Chinese amphibious aircraft, the largest in production, has made a successful one-hour maiden flight.

The plane, roughly the size of a Boeing 737 but with four turboprop engines, took off from Zhuhai airport in the southern province of Guangdong.

The plane can carry 50 people and can stay airborne for 12 hours.

It has firefighting and marine rescue duties but also military applications, which could be put to use in the disputed South China Sea region.

The AG600, codenamed Kunlong, can reach the southernmost edge of China’s territorial claims in the area.

State media Xinhua described the plane as “protector spirit of the sea, islands and reefs”.

The take-off of the flight was carried live on state television and its return was greeted by flag-waving crowds and military music.

The plane has been eight years in development, has a maximum take-off weight of 53.5 tonnes and a wingspan of 38.8m (127ft).

There are 17 orders already from within China.

China’s policy on the South China Sea is hotly contested by a number of neighbouring countries and a UN-backed tribunal last year dismissed Beijing’s claims to much of the region.

Though sizeable, the AG600 is dwarfed by the famous flying boat of billionaire Howard Hughes.

The Spruce Goose, or more technically the Hughes H-4 Hercules, had a wingspan of 97.54m.

However it made only one flight, which lasted about 26 seconds, in 1947, and never flew again. It is on display in a museum in Oregon.

The Martin Mars seaplane was made by the Glenn L Martin Company as a World War Two transporter for the US Navy and has a wingspan of 61 metres (200ft).

Some were later adapted as water bombers and have been in service in Canada on firefighting duties.

The Russian-built Beriev A-40 Albatros had a wingspan of 41.62m, but only two were fully or partially built. The first flight was in 1986 and the project was suspended.

There have been unconfirmed reports of a revival and a small batch ordered by the Russian navy, but what form the plane will take is unclear.

Source: BBC

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