Huge Chinese Seaplane Could Begin Deliveries by 2022

There is one operational glitch yet on this seaplane that needs to be solved.

chinese seaplane ag600
Chinese media claims dozens of orders for the huge AG600.Alert5/Wikimedia Commons

As the Chinese aviation industry continues expanding into a variety of piston and turbine aircraft markets, many by acquisition, that country’s state-owned Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC) made it clear recently that it doesn’t plan to overlook seaplanes. AVIC recently updated progress on the AG600, believed to be the world’s largest seaplane that successfully completed a one-hour maiden flight last December. Powered by four turboprop engines, the AG600, nicknamed the Water Dragon, is about the same size as a Boeing 737, 121 feet long with a 127-foot wingspan.

China’s Xinhua news agency said the Water Dragon was created primarily for search and rescue and aerial firefighting missions. The latter is made easier by the airplane’s ability to scoop as much as 12 tons of water in a 20 second run along the water’s surface. A maximum water load for the AG600 is 370 tons. The huge aircraft can also land and depart from water that’s only eight feet deep. At maximum takeoff weight, the AG600 tips the scales at 118,000 pounds and offers a maximum range of 2,800 miles and a maximum speed of 270 knots.

Xinhua said AVIC expects to begin delivering the AG600 to customers by 2022. The agency also said China has ordered 17 AG600s for domestic use and is expected to order 50 additional aircraft in the near future.

There is just a tiny potential glitch in the seaplane project. A number of Chinese naval experts have reportedly been skeptical about the aircraft’s utility citing operational limitations that might render the Water Dragon too inefficient to deliver as promised to be of any practical value.