Airbus Military expects to secure full civil certification for its A400M Atlas transport "within days", and to fly its first of at least 174 production examples in early March, says programme head Cédric Gautier.
Speaking at the company's San Pablo final assembly site in Seville, Spain on 15 February, Gautier said issues with the airlifter's Europrop International TP400-D6 engines encountered during 2012 have been resolved, and that the type will meet its full performance and payload requirements from entry into service.
Gautier identifies the period between 2 and 6 March as being the target for the first flight of French air force aircraft MSN7, with Airbus Military already having begun its production acceptance test activities ahead of the milestone event. "For the time being it is running extremely well," he says.
Aircraft MSN7 is undergoing ground testing in Seville, Spain
To be delivered in late May or early June, the first production Atlas underwent its first auxiliary power unit test in Seville on 14 February, with first engine cranks performed the following day and ground engine runs due to commence soon.
Airbus Military's delivery schedule for 2013 will see two additional A400Ms handed over to France, and one to the Turkish air force. Its final delivery of the year will be made in the SOC1 operating standard, which will introduce an initial aerial delivery capability and self-protection equipment.
Final assembly work in 2014 will be increased to cover the transfer of the programme's next 10 transports, including first examples for the UK and Germany.
Meanwhile, activities involving Airbus Military's fleet of five "Grizzly" development aircraft has passed 1,500 test flights, and more than a combined 4,500h, since the MSN1's debut sortie in December 2009.
Visit our FG Club later this week for a full update on the A400M programme.