Embraer has scheduled the first flight of the KC-390 aerial refueling tanker for early January.

The company released a brief announcement of the aircraft's most recent testing schedule on 18 December.

“Embraer informs that all preparatory procedures for the realization of first flight of the KC-390 are progressing according to plan,” the statement says. “The current expectation for the conclusion of these procedures indicates that this flight should occur in the first weeks of 2015.”

The clean-sheet tanker and transport aircraft was originally scheduled to fly before the end of the year, but production updates from Embraer began to raise doubts in late summer.

KC-390 front - Embraer

The first prototype aircraft fuselage was mated with its wings in September. But a photo Embraer released to announced the milestone was framed in such a way that the tail and aft fuselage were obscured. The photograph also showed the aircraft’s Aero Engines V2500-E5 turbofan engines had not been mounted under the wings.

All of that work was completed by late October, when the first prototype – two will be built for flight testing – was ceremoniously rolled out of Embraer’s Gavião Peixoto, Brazil, production facility.

Video of the aircraft taxiing under its own power surfaced in Brazilian media on 10 December.

“The aircraft is currently performing some tests before it is ready for the first flight,” an Embraer spokesman tells Flightglobal in an email. “As you can imagine, the agenda of the team involved in this program will be very busy for the next couple of weeks.”

First flight is a crucial step to beginning flight test, which must be wrapped up in time to begin deliveries of the KC-390 to the Brazilian air force in 2016. The air force intends to buy 28 examples of the aircraft, which it collaborated with Embraer to develop. Another five nations have signed letters of intent to purchase a total 32 additional KC-390s.

Source: FlightGlobal.com