China’s government has granted approval for Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC) to build a large amphibious aircraft for fire-fighting and rescue missions.
This is a program the Chinese have been looking at for the last couple of years, but, according to an AVIC General Aircraft official, last year’s Sichuan earthquake was the impetus for the Chinese ministry of industry and information to finally give the go ahead.
The aircraft, which has been tentatively named the Dragon 600, will be a four-engine propeller aircraft. It will be the largest amphibious aircraft in the world.
Hu Haiyin, deputy general manager of AVIC General Aircraft Company said the aircraft, which would be as large as an Airbus 320, could be used for tasks such as emergency rescue, fighting forest fires and sea patrols.
Hu said that market research indicated a domestic market for 60 such craft in the next 15 years.
Hu also added that the research and design stage, which has already begun, will last for four years and the commercial production of the aircraft is expected to begin in at least five years.
The first construction phase is scheduled for completion in 2012 and the company plans to have 1,500 employees.
The officials said the plan was to deploy the aircraft overseas on fire-fighting and rescue missions. Note that this is not just intended for local use. The intention is that it will be available on an international basis. Also note that this is not the first time China has worked in this area. The Dragon 600 is a larger version of the SH-5: a seaplane that had a production run of four.
Flight Global states that if this aircraft is used to rescue people facing forest fires and other natural disasters it will massively improve China’s international standing.