AVIC has conducted the maiden flight of a new variant of the AG600 Amphibian, with the aircraft boasting a higher maximum take-off weight (MTOW).

The aircraft (B-ODCC) took off from Zhuhai airport at 10:55am local time on 31 May, according to China’s Xinhua News Agency quoting AVIC.

The sortie lasted 20min and saw the aircraft practice climbing, reducing speed in level flight, and simulating a go-around. All systems “remained in good condition” during the flight, with “all systems working stably.”

The AG600 is built by China Aviation General Aircraft at Zhuhai airport, site of the biannual Airshow China, where the original AG600 has appeared in the static park and in the flying display.

According to AVIC’s Weibo account, the new configuration of the AG600 is optimised for firefighting work, with an MTOW of 60t and the ability to carry 12t of water. 

The 60t MTOW cited by AVIC is considerably higher than the 53.5t given for the original prototype, and larger still than Japan’s Shinmaywa US-2, which weighs in at 43t.  

Images of the new AG600 first appeared in January, with the aircraft bearing the number 1003.

The new prototype features several design updates over the original AG500, which first flew in 2017 and subsequently conducted a test campaign, including landing and taking off from water.

The new aircraft has a more bulbous upper fuselage and a re-shaped nose, which slopes downward more sharply than the earlier prototype, registered B-002A. There also appears to be slightly more space from under the aircraft’s nose to the bottom of the under-fuselage skirt, which has also been modified.

The shape of the last cockpit window has also been changed from a rectangle to a window with an angled bottom. The forward door on the left-hand side has also been moved closer to the cockpit.

The top of the aircraft’s tail, where the horizontal stabilizers are attached, also appears to have been beefed up.

In addition, the wing sees the addition of triangular structures under the trailing edge. The function of these is not clear, but they could accommodate larger actuators.

The aircraft is powered by four Dongan WJ-6 turboprops. 

Though AVIC highlights the AG600’s civilian role, it will have clear military applications, such as supporting atolls in the South China Sea where Beijing has built military bases, the insertion of special forces, as well as long-range combat search and rescue.