The prototype of the AVIC AG600 amphibious aircraft has started low-speed taxiing trials in a reservoir, pending its first flight from water.

The work took place on 30 August, and assessed the aircraft’s surface control characteristics, the performance of instruments when the aircraft is afloat, and ensuring the fuselage is watertight, says AVIC in a statement.

“The crew said the aircraft was in good condition, water was stable, and the various systems were working normally,” it adds.

In late August, the aircraft flew from the China Aviation Industry General Aircraft (CAIGA) production centre in Zhuhai to China’s Jingmen Weihe airport, which is located in central China. The airport sits on the shores of Zhanghe Reservoir, which has an area designated for use by amphibious aircraft.

The taxi tests will inform plans for the first flight from water. The aircraft had its maiden flight, from the runway at Zhuhai airport, in December 2017. AVIC has said that that the first flight from water will take place before the end of 2018.

Powered by four Dongan WJ-6 turboprops, the maximum take-off weight of the AG600 is 53.5t. It is the world's largest amphibian aircraft, even bigger than the Shinmaywa US-2 with an MTOW of 43t.

Unlike the US-2, the AG600 has no boundary layer control system. This device, located between the wings, boosts airflow over the wings, thus improving lift. This is especially useful when the aircraft needs to take off from water in high sea states.

The AG600 will undertake a range of missions, and its target market is domestic parapublic organisations. Its main functions are search and rescue, and transport. The aircraft can also serve as a water bomber, with a large tank located under the forward half of the aircraft.