Airbus Military believes that its first A400M transport could make its delayed flight debut in early- to mid-December, with its confidence having been boosted by recent good progress with ground tests involving aircraft MSN001.

In a letter emailed on 27 November to possible attendees of the first flight event, Airbus Military managing director Domingo Ureña says: "We are pleased to inform you that ground tests of the first A400M are progressing satisfactorily. This allows us to anticipate a first flight in week 50."

The goal would see the European airlifter's debut sortie take place from the A400M final assembly facility near Seville, Spain between 6 and 12 December, and be in line with an Airbus objective to fly the type before year-end.

Airbus notes that its week 50 target is "weather dependent", and adds: "There may be a last minute unexpected occurrence which could then push back the take-off by a couple of hours to one or several days."

MSN001's four Europrop International TP400-D6 turboprop engines were run together for the first time on 18 November, and the aircraft performed its first slow-speed taxi trials just five days later.

 A400M TP400s turn - Airbus Military

A400M taxi - Airbus Military

Both images © Airbus Military

Under original plans, the A400M should have flown for the first time in early 2008, with deliveries to the programme's seven launch partners and export customers to have started in October 2009. South Africa last month cancelled its order for eight A400Ms, cutting Airbus's orderbook for the type to 184 aircraft for eight nations.

Source: Flight International