The fourth Airbus Military A400M military airlifter has made its first flight – the culmination of a highly successful 2010 which also saw the fleet of Grizzly development aircraft complete just over 1,000 hours flight-time and 300 flights.
Known as Grizzly 4, the aircraft took off from Seville, Spain with a weight of 130 tonnes at 10h18 local time (GMT+1) and landed five hours and ten minutes later.
Experimental Test Pilot Klaus-Dietrich Flade captained the flight, supported by Experimental Test Pilot Christophe Cail. The crew also included Test Flight Engineers José Aragón-Gómez and, Bruno Bigand, and Flight Test Engineers José Casado-Corpas, and Catherine Schneider. Catherine is the first female Flight Test Engineer and test crew member to participate in an A400M first flight.
Grizzly 4 is the fourth of an eventual five aircraft which will conduct the 3,700 hour flight-test programme leading to first delivery in around two years time. It will be primarily dedicated to cargo and air-to-air refuelling operations and carries a medium flight-test instrumentation load.
Airbus Head of Flight Operations Fernando Alonso said: “The on-time first flight of Grizzly 4 highlights what has been an excellent first year of the flight-test programme. We end 2010 fully on schedule and with every expectation of rapidly building flight-hours and hitting our key test objectives in the year ahead. I am particularly proud of the seamless work done by the Airbus and Airbus Military teams in the Seville and Toulouse Flight Test Centres which has been instrumental in this achievement.”
The maiden flight of Grizzly 4 followed the completion of a series of milestones in recent months – notably the first paratrooper jumps from the aircraft, which were highly successful and demonstrated the excellent potential of the aircraft for this military operation. Flights with the ramp and doors open have proceeded smoothly.
An extensive programme of flying the aircraft with simulated icing shapes attached to the wings and tail has been completed. These flights were performed by Airbus and European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) flight crews and represent the first set of certification tests completed on the A400M.
Preliminary tests of protective kits for rough-field operations have been completed in preparation for next year´s trials.
Flight and ground load testing is complete, as is measurement of cruise performance. All major aircraft systems have been tested and flutter tests throughout the flight envelope are extremely close to completion.
The Europrop International (EPI) TP400 engines have been performing well, with the in-flight relight capability having been successfully demonstrated and ground starts following an overnight cold-soak recently performed. Behaviour of the auxiliary power unit has been excellent, and it has been started as high as 40,000ft.
Following the A400M’s maiden flight on 11the December 2009, earlier this year Grizzly 2 and Grizzly 3 made their first flights in respectively April and July and their introduction into the fleet made possible the outstanding demonstrations of the A400M´s handling qualities at the Berlin and Farnborough airshows.
The A400M is an all-new military airlifter designed to meet the needs of the world’s Armed Forces in the 21st Century. Thanks to its most advanced technologies, it is able to fly higher, faster and further, while retaining high manoeuvrability, low speed, and short, soft and rough airfield capabilities. It combines both tactical and strategic/logistic missions.
With its cargo hold specifically designed to carry the outsize equipment needed today for both military and humanitarian disaster relief missions, it can bring this material quickly and directly to where it is most needed. Conceived to be highly reliable, dependable, and with a great survivability, the multipurpose A400M can do more with less, implying smaller fleets and less investment from the operator. The A400M is the most cost efficient and versatile airlifter ever conceived and absolutely unique in its capabilities.