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The massive amphibious aircraft AG600 rolls off the production line / photo: Xinhua

China just completed the world’s largest amphibious aircraft

BEIJING - China has just completed production of its first amphibious aircraft, which is designed to enhance the country's capabilities in maritime rescues and fighting forest fires, state media said.

The massive seaplane AG600 rolled off a production line in the southern city of Zhuhai on Saturday (July 23), is part of China's efforts in minimizing its dependence on foreign goods in crucial sectors.

The AG600, around the size of a Boeing 737, is by far the world's largest amphibious aircraft. It has a maximum take-off weight of 53.5 tonnes and a maximum range of 4,500 km, is designed to weather even the toughest conditions on the sea while conducting rescue operations.

The plane can also reach 500 kilometers per hour. Combined with its prowess on water, it can quickly reach target sites that were previously accessible only by ship.

In the case of a forest fire, the seaplane can pick up 12 tons of water from a nearby lake or sea within 20 seconds. The plane can also rescue up to 50 people in a single trip.

The chief designer of AVIC - the Aviation Industry Corporation of China - Huang Lingcai, explains: "When people fall into water, the prime time for rescuing them should be within two to seven hours. After receiving the call, we can quickly take off, land on the water surface directly, and help the victims on to the plane even under inclement weather conditions such as encountering two-meter high waves."

Song Qingguo the general manager of AVIC said, "Previously, from Sanya to the southernmost point of the South China Sea, it would take one week even with the fastest ship. But now, this plane allows us to reach the site within two hours. This is great progress for our country's rescue capabilities, and is also a milestone for large aircraft manufacturing. It can be considered a treasure for our country."

This plane's first flight is expected before the end of this year.

In June, the Chinese-made ARJ21 (Advanced Regional Jet for the 21st century) made its first commercial flight, when Chengdu Airlines flew one from its home base to Shanghai

And the country's military began using its homegrown Y-20 heavy transport plane earlier this month. The Y-20 officially entered military service on July 7 in the southwestern province of Sichuan. The plane has a maximum takeoff weight of around 200 tonnes, and is ideal for carrying cargo and personnel over long distances.

Also, China's first domestically developed narrow-body passenger plane, the C919, has rolled out in November last year.

Despite a history of delays and problems, China's aviation industry has made rapid progress in the last year.