This Week briefing

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AMENDMENT SIGNING LIFTS A400M PROGRESS

NEW DEAL An amended contract covering the production of 170 Airbus A400M transports for the programme's seven launch nations has been signed by Airbus Military and Europe's OCCAR procurement agency. The company will deliver its first production example to the French air force in late 2012 or early 2013. Its four development aircraft have logged over 1,400h in almost 450 sorties.

ELEB LANDS DEAL TO EQUIP EMBRAER KC-390

AIRLIFTER Embraer subsidiary ELEB Equipment has been contracted to develop and produce the landing gear for its parent company's KC-390 military airlifter. Selected after a "detailed evaluation", the company will deliver equipment for the Brazilian air force's future tactical transport, which is due to fly for the first time in 2014.

UAV TRIAL SHOWS NON-PILOTS 'EQUALLY SKILLED'

UNMANNED SYSTEMS A UK trial to assess the ability of four candidates with no previous flying experience to operate unmanned air vehicles has "successfully demonstrated that selection and training can generate remote pilots who are as equally skilled as traditional pilots", says the Royal Air Force. Personnel from the Daedalus trial could go on to fly the US Air Force's General Atomics MQ-1 Predator.

EUROPE MUST LOOK OUT FOR ASTEROIDS, DEBRIS

BRUSSELS Europe must establish a space situational awareness system to reduce the €332 million ($475 million) annual damage to European assets caused by solar radiation and debris collisions, and mitigate the unquantifiable but potentially massive losses stemming from complete loss of a satellite or Earth impact of an asteroid. Other key European Commission priorities of a "reinforced" space policy, set out last week, are implementation of the Galileo navigation and GMES Earth monitoring programmes.

COMAC FLUTTERS THE WINGS OF THE ARJ21

AIRFRAMER The Comac ARJ21 regional jet has begun flutter testing in Xian, as the programme ramps up its flight-testing schedule. Aircraft 101, one of four in the test fleet, began preparing for the tests on 4 April, says Comac. Meanwhile, aircraft 104 is still undergoing icing tests in Urumqi, it adds. The airframer is scheduled to deliver the ARJ21 to launch operator Chengdu Airlines by the end of this year.

QATAR SPLASHES CASH ON NEW BOEING 777S

ORDER Qatar Airways and Boeing have announced a deal valued at $1.4 billion for five new 777 twinjets, including two 777-300ERs and three 777 Freighters, pushing the carrier's lifetime 777 order total to 34 aircraft. "It is an opportune time to be introducing more cargo capacity to our fleet," says Akbar Al Baker, Qatar Airways chief executive. "The state of Qatar and other parts of the region are growing at a phenomenal pace, and we are well positioned to take advantage."

KUWAIT WAITS ON FATE OF AIRLINES

CANCELLATION Kuwait's experiment with creating three more airlines for the emirate appears to have unravelled dramatically, after premium carrier Wataniya Airways ceased operations on 16 March and budget airline Jazeera Airways cancelled 25 Airbus A320s, almost its entire order from 2007, to curb overcapacity. Little has been heard from a third proposed operator, cargo carrier LoadAir, which ordered two Boeing 747-400ERFs in 2006.