World / Search

Better seaplanes 'vital' for rescue missions

By Zhao Lei (China Daily) Updated: 2014-04-08 08:16

China must speed up the development of amphibious aircraft to be better equipped to conduct maritime search and rescue missions, said an aviation expert.

Wang Ya'nan, deputy editor-in-chief of Aerospace Knowledge magazine, referenced the proverb, "A thousand days the country nurtures its soldiers all for one day of battle", in supporting his point that China must quickly develop amphibious aircraft.

"Some people who say such equipment are becoming useless will eventually realize they are indispensable," he added. "We say that Russia's Beriev Be-200 Altair turbofan amphibious jet had little worth in modern aviation, but it has shown us that it can play a big role in today's maritime operations."

Search and rescue agencies are among the largest operators of seaplanes because of their efficiency and ability to both spot and rescue survivors. Land-based aircraft cannot rescue survivors and many helicopters are limited in their capacity to carry survivors and in their fuel efficiency compared to fixed-wing aircraft, Wang said.

The Be-200 can carry nearly 8 metric tons of payload or up to 72 passengers. It has a maximum range of 3,300 km. The Russian Ministry of Emergency Situations has five Be-200s, and the Azerbaijan Ministry of Emergencies has one.

Japan also has an air-sea rescue aircraft - the ShinMaywa US-2 large amphibious plane - that can contain 20 passengers or 12 stretchers at a range of 4,700 km.

China has at most five SH-5 amphibious aircraft, which Wang said are dated and cannot perform modern search and rescue tasks in the ocean waters.

He said amphibious aircraft can land on the sea and use sonar or other instruments to detect underwater objects. It can then take off to other areas to continue its search.

"This maneuver saves fuel and thus enables the plane to scour a wider area," he added.

Aviation Industry Corp of China, an aircraft manufacturer, is nearly done developing the D-600, a large amphibious aircraft set to become the primary search and rescue seaplane in China. The D-600 will become the world's largest amphibious aircraft, surpassing Japan's ShinMaywa US-2.

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