China Unveils Giant Seaplane

The world's largest seaplane that isn't in a museum

China's Seaplane, The AG600

China's Seaplane, The AG600

As seen on China Central TelevisionScreenshot by author, from YouTube

There is more water than there are runways. For places that have access to the sea, or lakes, or large, calm rivers, it might be easier to use a seaplane than building a runway for a plane designed to land on, well, land. China’s state media today announced the completion of the first AG600. It’s the world’s largest functional seaplane and made by China itself.

At around the size of a Boeing 737, it is far larger than any other plane built for marine take off and landing, Xinhua quoted AVIC’s deputy general manager Geng Ruguang as saying. However, its wingspan is considerably smaller than that of the H-4 Hercules, known as the Spruce Goose, which was designed in the 1940s to carry Allied troops into battle. It is regarded as by far the largest seaplane ever built although it only ever made one flight, in 1947. The Chinese plane, which is targeted at the domestic market, will be “very useful in developing and exploiting marine resources,” the article said, adding that it could be used for “environmental monitoring, resource detection and transportation”.

The interior of China has over 68,000 miles of navigable waterways, and 31,000 square miles of lakes. While not all of that is accessible to a seaplane, and especially not to a particularly large seaplane ( the AG600 has a wingspan of 128 feet and is 121 feet long), flying out cargo from even some of that area, especially if it was previously inaccessible, would be a huge boon for local industry. More likely, it will operate along coasts, supplementing shipping routes and flying to places too small to both dock a boat or build a runway. And if the AG600 takes off in China, there's a ready-made export market in all the islands of Oceania to China's south and east.

Watch a video about it below: