Chinese pilots to train in Canada to fly new amphibious air tanker

AG600 TA-600
AG600/TA-600 under construction. DFNS photo.

Chinese pilots will be training in Canada to fly the new TA-600 amphibious aircraft now being built in China by the Aviation Industry Corporation of China.

Britton Coulson of The Coulson Group said their company will be training 14 test pilots during two weeks in late July who will be the first to fly the TA-600. The training will include ground, water taxi, flight, and scooping and dropping water. The pilots from China will go through classroom and hands on training using Coulson’s Hawaii Martin Mars aircraft, actually taxiing and flying the huge flying boat.

The new Chinese aircraft will have a 3,000-gallon water capacity, four turboprop engines, can handle a wave height of two meters, and will have a maximum speed of 354 mph (570 kph, 308 knots). The base model for the aircraft is the AVIC TA-600 which is designed to be used for transport, water rescue, or to carry up to 50 passengers. The air tanker version appears to have the AG-600 model name. Both aircraft are similar to what was then known as the JL-600 when we wrote about it in 2010 at Wildfire Today. The maiden flight is expected to take place in the first half of 2016.

Hawaii and Philippine Mars
Hawaii (foreground) and Philippine Mars in 2008. Photo by RuthAS.

Coulson owns two huge water scooping flying boat Martin Mars air tankers, with a capacity of 7,200 gallons of water which can be mixed on board with foam concentrate. However, the two planes, the Philippine and Hawaii Mars built in 1945 and now based at Port Alberni, BC, Canada, have not been used as air tankers in recent years. The Philippine Mars, which retired several years ago, is expected to be traded to the Pensacola Naval Museum in Florida in exchange for some aircraft the museum has in their inventory. British Columbia did not renew their firefighting contract for the Hawaii Mars for 2014.

Mr. Coulson said, “By the end of July both Mars will be serviceable and most likely we will have the Philippine in the water as well getting ready to fly to Pensacola”.

Philippine Mars
Philippine Mars after being repainted in its original colors, July 17, 2014. (Screen grab from a Coulson video.)

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Coulson loses B.C. contract for Martin Mars
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Video of Martin Mars dropping on Mt. Wilson
Martin Mars drops 64,000 gallons on two fires