Flight testing with the A400M 'Grizzly' is progressing so well that Airbus Military is preparing to venture into two uncharted areas of the aircraft's performance range.
Airbus's head of flight test Fernando Alonso reveals that development aircraft MSN003 will this weekend undergo preliminary work near Toulouse to assess the effects of manoeuvring the aircraft on the ground with chalk pellets scattered on the runway. The company expects to make the first landing on an unpaved surface late this year.
It will also soon install under-wing hose and drogue refuelling pods, in a process to measure their aerodynamic impact. "It is urgent to clear the configuration flying with the pods, and with the hoses extended," says Alonso. Supporting work was performed during a recent formation flight involving the programme's first two test aircraft.
© APG photography
Airbus's three A400Ms have now logged more than 109 sorties and 415 flight hours, says chief test pilot military Ed Strongman, who also took on-show aircraft MSN002 to the Royal Air Force's Brize Norton transport base in Oxfordshire on 16 July.
Airbus Military managing director Domingo Ureña says talks continue towards the signing of a new contract with the A400M's seven European launch customers. "The devil is in the detail, and we are in the middle of the detail," he says, while adding: "we're making big progress."