AVIC developed a new configuration for its AG600 large amphibian aircraft and that new version, in firefighter configuration, recently successfully completed its first flight. The AG600 Firefighter aircraft took off from Zuhai Jinwan airport on May 31st and spent 20 minutes in flight evaluating climb, speed in level flight, and a simulated go-around.
This marks a new phase for the large amphibian program and provides China with a new firefighting model of the large amphibious aircraft. The AG600 Firefighter aircraft has been code-named Kunlong, or Sleepy Dragon in English.
The AG600 is the first large special mission aircraft in China certified to commercial aircraft standards, along with the Y-20 large military transport jet and the C919 passenger aircraft. The aircraft is intended for construction of a national independent aviation emergency rescue equipment system, with the AG600 firefighter tasked for that specific role.
The new aircraft has a maximum take-off weight of 60 tons and a maximum water capacity of 12 tons. With a pressurized cabin, fly-by-wire controls, and integrated avionics, the new aircraft is safer, can transport more water and has longer range than the original AG600 demonstrator aircraft. The aircraft will be 100 percent domestic, with Chinese made engines and key airborne systems.
The testing program plan for the AG600 includes actual firefighting in 2023, with certification by the Civil Aviation Administration of China (“CAAC”) in 2024 and delivery to users in 2025.
This aircraft will join the Canadian De Havilland CL-515 and the Russian Beriev Be-200 amphibian as in production firefighting aircraft. While the use of amphibian firefighting aircraft has been increasing, the use of aerial firefighting has still not reached the level of sophistication and fleet size to attack new fires while they are smaller and easier to control in many countries. We will be watching the AG600 Firefighter and the aviation emergency rescue system as it develops in China with great interest.