China AG600
China's AG600 amphibious aircraft completes maiden flight /AFP/Getty Images

China's AG600, the world's largest amphibious aircraft in production, has taken to the skies for the first time.

The plane, which goes by the codename Kunlong and boasts a wingspan of 127ft, took off from Zhuhai airport and flew for almost an hour before landing back at the site on Sunday (24 December). Its return was greeted by a cheering, flag-waving crowd as well as military music.

AG600 is roughly as big as a Boeing 737 and can carry as many as 50 people on board, according to The Guardian. Its four turboprop engines deliver sufficient power to keep the whole thing airborne for as long as 12 hours.

To be specific, the plane delivers an operational range of 4,500km and can take to the skies with as much as 53.5 tonnes of weight onboard.

This combined with AG600's unique ability to take-off and land in water makes it a perfect choice for dousing blazes and maritime rescue operations.

However, as the report notes, the plane also carries military applications, which could be deployed in the disputed South China Sea region where China, Vietnam, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Brunei all have overlapping claims.

"Its successful maiden flight makes China among the world's few countries capable of developing a large amphibious aircraft," the chief designer, Huang Lingcai, told Xinhua. The media outlet called the plane a "protector spirit of the sea, islands and reefs".

So far, the state-owned manufacturer of the craft, which spent eight years building the whole thing, has received 17 orders so far. However, the numbers could rise in near future.

AG600 clearly looks like a behemoth of an aircraft, but the plane is still smaller than Spruce Goose, Howard Hughes's famous flying boat which had a wingspan of 97m and length of 67m. That plane, one of the biggest ever to take to the skies, just flew once and only for about 30 seconds in 1947.