Airbus' newest and largest military aircraft - the multi-role A400M - performed a highly successful maiden flight today, initiating a 3,700-hr. test and certification campaign that will lead to this multi-role airlifter's service entry at the end of 2012.
Powered by four 11,000-shp turboprop engines, the no. 1 A400M lifted off at 10:15 a.m. from Seville Airport in Spain, which is home to the aircraft's final assembly line. During a 3-hour, 47-minute-long first flight, the six-member crew validated a significant portion of the A400M's flight envelope, and the aircraft was joined in formation by a Spanish Air Force F/A-18 fighter.
The A400M capped today's mission with a low pass in view of the more than 2,000 invited VIPs, military officers, Airbus staff and international journalists who gathered at Seville Airport, and followed up with a smooth landing.
"It was a fantastic flight, beginning with takeoff performance that was 'sparkling,' " said chief military test pilot Edward "Ed" Strongman.
He described the A400M's flight control handling qualities as "remarkably responsive," confirming its Airbus fly-by-wire aircraft family pedigree. "In addition to this no. 1 aircraft, there are two A400Ms coming in the next few months, so we're really on track to get on with a full flight test programme," Strongman added.
Developed by the Airbus Military business unit, the A400M is designed to replace ageing C-130 Hercules and C-160 Transall fleets currently in service around the world - featuring more than twice their payload
The A400M is a true multi-mission airlifter. It has been designed for operations from unprepared runways for the delivery of large payloads to tactical forward bases, and can evacuate a full complement of refugees or casualties from remote areas. With its high cruise speed, long range and voluminous cargo hold, the A400M also serves as a key element in strategic force projection, and the aircraft is fully equipped to perform air-to-air refuelling - while also being able to receive fuel while in flight to further extend its operating range.
For additional information about today's milestone flight, and for more details on the A400M programme, visit the Airbus Military website