China could conduct a maiden flight for the developmental AVIC TA-600 amphibious aircraft in 2015.

According to a report in the People’s Daily quoting Fu Junxu, an executive of China Aviation Industry General Aircraft (CAIGA), the design of the four-engine flying boat has been completed, with the aircraft set to enter trial production at Zhuhai in late 2014 or early 2015.

The aircraft, to be powered by four turboprop engines, will have a maximum takeoff weight of 53.5t and a range of 5,000km.

The People’s Daily report indicates the TA-600, which was formerly designated the Dragon 600, will be used for passenger transport, maritime patrol, and search and rescue. It adds that the aircraft will be larger than Japan’s Shinmaywa US-2, which has a MTOW of 47.7t. The TA-600 will accommodate 50 passengers in the search and rescue role.

If the TA-600 is deployed with the Chinese navy or paramilitary forces, it would also improve access to remote atolls in the South China Sea’s Spratly Island chain, a region claimed by several nations including Vietnam, the Philippines, Taiwan, and Malaysia.

The People’s Daily story does not specify the power plant the TA-600 will use, or if it will have a boundary layer control (BLC) system similar to the US-2.

The US-2 has four Rolls-Royce T56 turboprops in addition to a CTS800 engine located inside the fuselage just aft of the wings. Originally designed for the AgustaWestland AW159 Wildcat helicopter, the CTS800 is used for the aircraft’s BLC system.

The US-2’s BLC sits just behind the wing in the fuselage and facilitates the type’s short take-off and landing performance capability by generating compressed air around the flaps and control surfaces that allow them to be flown at higher angles of attack. This enables the aircraft to operate in rough seas of up to 3m