The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) has approved full civil certification for the Airbus Military A400M tactical transport, edging the type closer to its entry into service in mid-2013.
Presented to the manufacturer by EASA on 13 March, the certificate marks "a critical step towards delivery of the first aircraft to the French air force", Airbus Military says. The programme's launch example from a currently contracted 174 aircraft, MSN7, made its debut flight from Seville, Spain, on 6 March and is due to be handed over in late May or early June. Discussions to finalise the exact detail of the transport's initial operating capability standard for France are ongoing, the company adds.
The first production A400M - for the French air force - was flown on 6 March
"It is an enormously gratifying moment to have confirmation that the A400M has fully demonstrated its compliance with the most stringent airworthiness standards," says Domingo Ureña-Raso, Airbus Military chief executive. Cedric Gautier, the company's A400M programme head, notes that the process has been "a huge challenge for us, our suppliers and EASA", but will "see important benefits as the aircraft matures in service and new customers join the programme".
Airbus Military had originally expected to secure full civil certification following the completion of a core flight test programme totalling 3,700 flight hours. The company says its five-strong fleet of Grizzly development aircraft had by mid-March flown more than 1,600 sorties and for a combined 4,800h since MSN1's debut in December 2009.
The higher flight hours total includes early testing of future military capabilities including air-to-air refuelling, low-level flight and airdrop tasks, plus a 300h function and reliability programme, which had to be largely repeated in early 2013 following a problem with the type's Europrop International TP400-D6 turboprop engines.
Continued development of the A400M's military applications will lead to the type's evolution through several operating standards before achieving full capability in 2019.