This story is part of AIN's continuing coverage of the impact of the coronavirus on aviation.
The shock announcement on April 25 that Boeing was terminating the Master Transaction Agreement (MTA) with Embraer—to establish a joint venture for the Brazilian OEM’s commercial aviation business—also extends to the two companies’ plans to establish Boeing Embraer–Defense as a joint venture to manage all aspects of the C-390 Millennium medium airlifter/tanker. This development was announced last November at the Dubai Airshow, with Boeing to take a 49 percent share.
However, a teaming agreement to jointly market and support the aircraft remains in place for the time being. This had initially been signed as a marketing venture in 2012 and was expanded in 2016 to include Boeing’s global services and support network.
Embraer has logged 33 orders for the C-390, comprising 28 aircraft for the Força Aérea Brasileira (FAB, Brazilian air force) and five for Portugal. The first aircraft for the FAB—which still refers to it as the KC-390—was handed over on September 4 last year in a ceremony attended by President Bolsonaro at Anápolis in Goiás state. There the FAB has established the Primeiro Grupo de Transporte de Tropa (1° GTT, 1st troop transport group) with Ala (wing) 2 to be the first unit to operate the KC-390. The subordinate Esquadrão (squadron) Cascavel is tasked with bringing the KC-390 to operational capability and forging operating procedures. A second aircraft was delivered direct from the Embraer factory at Gavião Peixoto on December 13.
Shortly after, on December 26, a joint FAB/Embraer team completed the test campaign for the KC-390’s airdrop capabilities using the container delivery and low-velocity air drop systems, for gravity-drop and extraction deliveries, respectively. The trials were conducted at the U.S. Army’s Yuma Proving Ground in Arizona and verified the performance of the KC-390’s single-operator cargo handling and aerial delivery system, and the continuously-computed drop point function that aids the flight crew in making accurate deliveries. A single platform weighing 19 tonnes (42,000 pounds) was dropped in one of the tests, while in another, two loads with a combined weight of 24 tonnes were sequentially delivered.
Training is currently underway at Anápolis of the first crews for Esquadrão Zeus, the initial front-line squadron. Basic training with local flights was completed in March, and now the crews are training in route airlift operations, a process expected to be completed by June.
Recently the KC-390 has been drafted in to help Brazil’s response to the Covid-19 crisis, despite not yet being fully cleared for operations. On April 10 an aircraft ferried an ambulance and hospital equipment from Ala 11 at Galeão (Rio de Janeiro) to Ala 8 at Manaus. Later the aircraft will be initially cleared for route airlift training flights between Belém, Canoas, Manaus, Natal, Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo-Guarulhos, and Santa Maria. During these flights the aircraft will be permitted to carry cargo and is available to support the Covid-19 effort.