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China’s first seaplane and the world's largest, the AG600 Kunlong, executed its first flight ever this weekend, Xinhua state news agency reported. It is speculated that the plane will have military applications.
The aircraft succeeded in flying for about 31 minutes, said state-owned plane-maker Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC). It took off from Qingdao on July 26.
Xinhua explained that the new plane is "designed to meet the country's demands for forest firefighting, marine rescue, and other critical emergency rescue missions." The agency appears to avoid any mention of military applications.
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The plane is 121 feet (37 meters) long with a wingspan of 128 feet (39 meters) and stands 39 feet (12 meters) tall. It can carry up to 50 passengers. For firefighting purposes, AG600 Kunlong can collect 12 tons of water in 20 seconds and drop it over an area of 4,000 square meters.
AVIC revealed that the plane's development started back in 2009. It described the plane as multi-tasking and amphibious and said it can "take off and land on both ground and water, thus packing more potential for various missions."
The aircraft marks the first time that China has developed a special-mission large civil aircraft model. The plane had already completed a maiden flight in 2017 and the first takeoff from a water reservoir in 2018.
"The successful maiden flight paved the way for the aircraft to undergo the following phases of test flights over sea and verification of its performance as an amphibious aircraft," wrote Xinhua.
The state news agency also added that together with the Y-20 large transporter and C919 single-aisle passenger airplane, the new plane is part of China's ambitious project of independently developing a "large aircraft family."
AVIC has now optimized the plane as well as trained test flight pilots particularly for taking on maritime operations.