Chinese aviation manufacturer AVIC has expanded into the seaplane market, placing an order for 100 sets of floats to convert 19-seat Harbin Y-12s into amphibious transports, says a US supplier.

Seattle-based Kenmore Air announced that AVIC is acquiring the floats for the Y-12 from EDO Floats, a subsidiary of the US company.

The two-year conversion programme includes a plan to certificate the seaplane capability with the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and Chinese civil aviation authority (CAAC).

EDO designed the floats for the Y-12 with carbonfibre material, says Kenmore Air, the largest seaplane operator in the USA.

The deal also creates a new competitive threat for the DeHavilland DHC-6 Twin Otter and its recent reincarnation by Viking Aircraft as the Twin Otter Viking 400.

If the aircraft receives FAA certification, it allows AVIC to market the aircraft beyond China. AVIC also plans to grow seaplane activity within China, growing from the South Eastern coastal areas to the Pearl River Delta Region and Yun Nan province, according to Kenmore Air.