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The first Airbus Military A400M military airlifter landed back in Seville, Spain, on December 11 at 14:02 local time (13:02 UTC) after completing a successful maiden flight lasting 3h 47min following its take-off at 10:15 local time.
Chief Test Pilot Military, Edward "Ed" Strongman, captained the flight supported by Experimental Test Pilot Ignacio "Nacho" Lombo. The engineering team on board included: Senior Flight Test Engineer Jean-Philippe Cottet who had responsibility for the powerplants; Senior Flight Test Engineer Eric Isorce with responsibility for the aircraft systems and performance; Senior Flight Test Engineer Didier Ronceray with responsibility for the handling qualities of the aircraft; and Test Flight Engineer Gerard Leskerpit.
The crew confirmed that the aircraft, known as MSN 1 and its four Europrop International TP400D turboprop engines performed as expected.
Strongman said: "We have had a very successful first flight - the take-off performance was impressive, we explored a lot of the operational flight envelope, and it was a delight to operate in such a well-designed cockpit with its easy interface to all the normal and military systems. I'm sure our customer pilots are really going to like it - we certainly did."
Lombo added: "From the very beginning of the flight we were impressed by the ease of handling of the aircraft which was in line with what we experienced in the simulator. The aircraft, systems and engine performance were highly satisfactory. We sense the great potential of this magnificent machine. It has been an honour for all the crew to fly the A400M on its maiden flight, representing all the people involved in the programme."
Chief Executive Officer Airbus Military, Domingo Urena-Raso, said: "I would like to congratulate Ed Strongman, Nacho Lombo and all of the flight-test team for completing the first flight of the A400M with great success. I am also deeply grateful to everyone in the design, manufacturing and early operations of this programme for their enormously hard work and dedication that have made this aircraft a reality. And I want to thank all those people in our industrial partners and suppliers, as well as our customers, who have contributed so much to the definition and creation of an outstanding product."
Airbus CEO Tom Enders said: "I hope we can soon provide certainty that we are able to continue the A400M programme. This is expected by those at Airbus, our partners and suppliers worldwide who contributed so strongly to today's success as well as by the air forces who wait for their plane."
For its first flight the aircraft took off at a weight of 127 tonnes, carrying 15 tonnes of test equipment including two tonnes of water ballast, compared with its maximum take-off weight of 141 tonnes. As planned, the six-man crew extensively explored the aircraft's flight envelope in direct law, including a wide speed-range, and tested lowering and raising of the landing gear and high-lift devices at altitude. After checking the aircraft's performance in the landing configuration the crew landed back at Seville.
In the first half of 2010 MSN 1 will be joined by two sister aircraft, MSN 2 and MSN 3, followed by MSN 4 by the end of the year. A fifth aircraft will join the programme during 2011. This fleet will be used for some 3,700 hours of test-flying between now and first delivery to the French Air Force at the end of 2012. This will be followed by additional military development flying. The type will be certificated by both the civil and military authorities.
A total of 184 aircraft have so far been ordered by Belgium,