First Production KC-390 Takes to the Air

 - October 10, 2018, 9:27 AM
The third KC-390 is the first series production aircraft and is seen here taking off for the first time on October 9 from Embraer's factory at Gaviäo Peixoto, Brazil. (Photo: Embraer)

On October 9 Embraer Defense and Security flew the first production example of its KC-390 multi-mission tanker/transport. The aircraft is the third to be built and will join the trials fleet as a temporary replacement for the first aircraft, which was damaged in a runway overrun incident in May.

That event and the damage sustained by the aircraft caused Embraer to delay the first hand-over of a production KC-390 to the Brazilian air force by around six months. The air force agreed for the first production aircraft to be reassigned to trial duties to avoid any further delays. Aircraft no. 4 is now planned to be the first to be delivered to the air force, sometime in the first half of 2019. Between them, the two original KC-390 development machines have now logged more than 1,900 flight hours since the type's first flight on February 3, 2015, and the company reports that Brazilian civil certification by ANAC (Agência Nacional de Aviacão Civil) is imminent.

Currently the KC-390 has received only a firm order for 28 aircraft from Brazil, but there are outstanding letters of intent (LoIs) from Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Czech Republic, and Portugal. There is also an LoI from SkyTech, an Australian/Portuguese joint venture that aims to acquire up to six KC-390s to operate with air forces under leasing arrangements. The LoIs cover a combined total of 38 aircraft.

In the meantime, Brazilian newspaper Valor Economico reported at the start of October that Embraer and Boeing were discussing the possibilities of establishing a KC-390 assembly line in the U.S., as part of a growing collaboration between the companies following the planned acquisition by Boeing of an 80 percent stake in Embraer’s commercial aircraft business. In 2014 a joint KC-390 marketing deal was signed, which was expanded in 2016 with Boeing agreeing to provide global servicing and maintenance support. Any plans for a U.S. assembly line would presumably be linked to a sale of KC-390s to U.S. forces.