How the C-27J performed

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Early in the morning of our second day in Gao, Alenia Aeronautica head of flying operations and test pilot Marco Venanzetti and chief test pilot Enrico Scarabotto gave a short flying display to highlight the main tactical attributes of the C-27J in an operational environment.

The third prototype is in a standard configuration and is fitted for a defensive aids subsystem for test purposes, but does not have the head-up displays, in-fight refuelling probe or other equipment from the Italian air force's enhanced configuration.

With the aircraft having a 22,000kg (48,500lb) total weight and with the external temperature at 25°C (77°F), the crew began the display with a steep take-off from Gao.

The manoeuvre "should allow the aircraft to complete the climb inside the airport perimeter, and subsequently change course to reduce exposure to potential ground fire", said Scarabotto. It also requires a higher rotation speed of 120kt (222km/h) to gain sufficient energy.

Pitch attitude was around 40°, while the flaps were initially set in the 50% down position. After reaching 1,000ft (305m), we unloaded and levelled off to gain 130-140kt before entering a rudder turn with a 90° course change.

Although "non-tactically pertinent", this manoeuvre showed the C-27J's significant rudder power and lack of yaw limitations, allowing it to reach up to 17-18° beta, said Scarabotto. Taken in combination with the transport's high-strength airframe and cargo compartment floor, this would also make the Spartan an ideal platform for a gunship application, he believes.

After performing a low-level pass over the Niger river bridge near Gao for ground-based photography, we began a series of wingover and Schneider manoeuvres, reaching 2.5g and 110° bank in a low-level environment.

"The C-27J has a +3/-1g [the latter for 10s]-capable airframe, without bank angle limitations and a high and quick response to pilot commands, reaching a roll rate of 55°/s," Scarabotto said. "This allows it to operate in tight valleys, thanks also to the 16 cockpit window wide field of view, without g-load and manoeuvre restrictions up to 29,500kg maximum take-off weight, with a 9,000kg payload."

We completed the sortie with a steep approach and landing "to reduce the exposure to potential threats around the airport and/or to cope with obstacles. The technique allows short landing even at high approach angles and speed," said Scarabotto.

The manoeuvre is impressive from the cockpit, as from a 1,500ft altitude and 95kt speed, Venanzetti pushed the yoke to reach 30°, increasing to 40° as the speed built to 130kt. In the meantime, the aircraft's two Rolls-Royce AE2100 engines were set at idle with the steep descent throttle position engaged.

"Under this mode, idle torque is reduced to a minimum and propeller pitch is adjusted to deliver negative thrust," said Scarabotto.

Our C-27J touched down at 110kt, "but tactical short-field operations are performed at 90kt to further reduce landing distance", he said.

Scarabotto added that "by applying maximum reverse thrust and full brakes, the aircraft can stop in 300-450m [320m with a 27,000kg total weight] from touchdown".

EARLY IN the morning of second day in Gao, Alenia Aeronautica head of flying operations and test pilot Marco Venanzetti and chief test pilot Enrico Scarabotto gave Flight International's reporter a short flying display to highlight the main tactical attributes of the C-27J in an operational environment.

Alenia Aeronautica's third prototype aircraft features a standard configuration, and is fitted for a defensive aids subsystem for test purposes, but does not have the head-up displays, in-fight refuelling probe or other equipment from the Italian air force's enhanced configuration.

With the aircraft having a 22,000kg (48,500lb) total weight and with the external temperature being 25°C (77°F), the crew began the display with a steep take-off from Gao airport.

The manoeuvre "should allow the aircraft to complete the climb inside the airport perimeter, and subsequently change course to reduce exposure to potential ground fire", says Scarabotto. It also requires a higher rotation speed of 120kt (222km/h) to gain sufficient energy.

Pitch attitude was around 40°, while the flaps where initially set in the 50% down position. After reaching 1,000ft (305m), we unloaded and levelled off to gain a speed of 130-140kt before enter a rudder-turn with a 90° course change.

"Although non-tactically pertinent, this manoeuvre shows the C-27J's significant rudder power and no yaw limitations, allowing it to reach up to 17-18° beta," says Scarabotto. Taken in combination with the transport's high-strength airframe and cargo compartment floor, this would also make the Spartan an ideal platform for a gunship application, he believes.

After performing a low-level pass over the Niger river bridge near Gao for ground-based photography, we began a series of wingover and Schneider manoeuvres, reaching 2.5g and 110° bank in a low-level environment.

"The C-27J has a +3/-1g [the latter for 10s]-capable airframe, without bank angle limitations and a high and quick response to pilot commands, reaching a roll rate of 55°/s," Scarabotto says. "This allows the C-27J to operate in very tight valleys, thanks also to the 16 cockpit window wide field of view, without g-load and manoeuvre restrictions up to 29,500kg maximum take-off weight, with a 9,000kg payload."

We completed the sortie with a steep approach and landing "to reduce the exposure to potential threats around the airport and/or to cope with obstacles. The technique allows short landing even at high approach angles and speed," says Scarabotto.

The manoeuvre is impressive from the cockpit, as from a 1,500ft altitude and 95kt speed, Venanzetti pushed the yoke to reach 30°, increasing to 40° as the speed built to 130kt. In the meantime, the aircraft's two Rolls-Royce AE2100 engines were set at idle with the steep descent throttle position engaged.

"Under this mode, idle torque is reduced to a minimum and propeller pitch is adjusted to deliver negative thrust," says Scarabotto.

Our C-27J touched down at 110kt, "but tactical short-field operations are performed at 90kt to further reduce landing distance," he says. Although not performed for our demonstration, "by applying maximum reverse thrust and full brakes, the aircraft can stop in 300-450m [320m with a 27,000 kg total weight] from touchdown," he notes.