It’s one thing to build the biggest seaplane since Howard Hughes’s famed Spruce Goose; it’s another to have it successful take off from a body of water and fly. But this past weekend, a Chinese aviation company was able to check off both of those boxes.
The gigantic AG600 “Kunlong” successfully completed its maiden flight over water on Sunday, according to Beijing’s state news agency, Xinhua. The plane, which is the world’s newest and largest amphibious aircraft, flew for 31 minutes before smoothly landing back where its journey had begun.
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A shortened video of the flight was posted to YouTube by CGTN, another state-owned media company, shortly after its completion. In the clip, the hulking plane can be seen taking off from the from the Yellow Sea, near the city of Qingdao in Shandong province, circling around the coastal city of 5.9 million, then successfuly landing back on the water.
The Aviation Industry Corporation of China began developing Kunlog way back in 2009. Construction was complete in July of 2016, and the seaplane would make its first successful flight over land the following year. The amphibious aircraft is about the same size as a Boeing 737, measuring 121 feet long, 39 feet tall and with a wingspan of 129 feet.
As massive as it is, it’s still half the size of Howard Hughes’s Spruce Goose, but thanks to its four Ivchenko AI20-based WJ-6 turboprop engines, each of which produces 4,500 horsepower, it can still carry 50 passengers up to 2,700 miles.
Both Xinhua and CGTN took pains to stress the plane’s civilian uses. The Beijing-based news service said that the Kunlog, which was designed to operate in complex weather and environment conditions, can be used for both firefighting and search-and-rescue missions.
Despite this, Popular Mechanics points out that it will almost certainly have a number of military applications as well. While currently unarmed, it could be equipped anti-submarine depth charges, homing torpedoes and sea mines, as well as be used rescue downed pilots during wartime.
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