A400M Airlifter Spreads Its Wings

 - April 20, 2012, 2:25 PM
It’s all smiles and thumbs up in Malaysia, as Airbus Military chief test pilot Ed Strongman (left) and senior vice president Ignacio Alonso (right) greet the country’s air force commander, Gen. Rodzali Daud.

The Airbus Military A400M is spreading its wings, as the once-troubled program makes progress toward first delivery early next year. The airlifter went to South America last month and Southeast Asia this week, for viewing by potential customers. The company said last November that it hopes to sell about 300 A400Ms over the next 20 years, and that the first production slots for new customers are available in 2016-17. The seven European partner nations that launched the development program will receive some return on all export sales, as partial payback for agreeing to a higher price for their aircraft in 2010.

The second development aircraft flew to South America in March for high-altitude performance tests at La Paz airfield in Bolivia, more than 13,000 feet above sea level. It also visited Lima, Peru, and the Fidae aerospace show in Chile. The type’s 1,000th flight was logged during this trip.

The fourth development aircraft started the Asian trip in Kuala Lumpur, where it was shown to the only export customer to date. Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF) commander Gen. Rodzali Daud said the service will receive its first A400M in January 2015, with the other three to follow by 2016, and he confirmed that the RMAF will use the aircraft’s air-refueling capability. The aircraft then made visits to Jakarta, Indonesia, and Chiang Mai and Bangkok, Thailand.

The first four production TP400-D6 engines arrived in Seville in early April. They are now being mated to MSN7, the first aircraft due to be delivered to the French Air Force. Europrop International (EPI) said the large turboprop has now run for more than 20,000 hours in the air and on the ground.

Ed Strongman, chief test pilot, said Airbus Military has completed all the flight tests required for the issuance of the A400M’s initial type certificate. “This year we are expanding the aircraft’s capabilities to achieve its full potential; short-field and unpaved runway operations, airdrop of equipment and air-to-air refueling are just a few examples of our present flight-test activities,” he added.