M346 test programme will cover 700 flights and aim for full clearance in 2007

Aermacchi is preparing to roll out the first M346 advanced jet trainer, either late next month or in early June. The first aircraft - developed from the YA-130, Aermacchi's joint programme with Russia's Yakovlev - is in final assembly at the company's Venegono factory in northern Italy.

Following roll-out, the aircraft will undergo ground trials before first flight, which is planned for November, says Eligio Trombetta, vice programme director and manager system engineering M346.

The M346 has a 9.72m (31.9ft)-span wing, reduced from the YA-130's 10.64m, and at 11.5m long is 0.4m shorter than the earlier aircraft.

Aermacchi has also redesigned the "duck-nose" of the aircraft to allow integration of a radar and the cross-section area has been slimmed, says Trombetta.

The YA-130's Russian systems have been replaced by Western equivalents. This includes the demonstrator's analogue fly-by-wire system, replaced by a Teleavio quadruplex digital flight control system. The structure is new, much of it being machined components instead of fabricated items.

The combination of a smaller, lighter airframe and engines with increased power boosts the fully fuelled aircraft's thrust-to-weight ratio to 0.85 compared with the YA-130's 0.48, says Trombetta.

He says the M346 will retain the high angle-of-attack performance of the YA-130, which reached 41¡ during its 300 flights, many of which were at Venegono.

The aircraft has Honeywell 6,245lb-thrust (28kN) F124-200 engines replacing the demonstrator's two Russian Klimov RD-35s.

Components for the second aircraft are in production. This aircraft is due to fly in the late third or early fourth quarter of next year. Aircraft three is due to fly around one year later and will be production representative. An Alenia/Aermacchi/Embraer AMX main undercarriage will be used on the first two aircraft, but the third will have an M346-specific integrated design. Trombetta says Aermacchi intends to select a supplier this month, with APPH, Liebherr and Messier-Dowty in the running. Liebherr has already been selected for the nose-gear.

The M346 test programme is expected to cover 700 flights. An initial operational clearance will be reached in 2005, with the full clearance in late 2007, says Trombetta. Aermacchi and the Italian defence ministry signed an agreement late last month to certificate the M346 to Italian military regulations.



Source: Flight International