Airbus Defence & Space has completed work to certificate its A400M tactical transport for operations on grass and natural soil landing strips.

Performed over a three-week period concluding in October, the activity involved making approximately 40 take-offs and landings using roughly 4,600ft (1,400m)-long strips at Écury-sur-Coole airfield in France. Around six flights were performed for certification authorities.

A400M grass - Airbus Defence & Space

Airbus Defence & Space

“We have demonstrated that we can operate without any damage, and certified and qualified with maximum capacity for braking and using maximum reverse thrust,” says head of flight tests and operations Eric Isorce.

“The A400M demonstrated excellent performance both in taxiing manoeuvres, such as U-turns, and during take-off and landing,” Airbus says.

A400M grass close - Airbus Defence & Space

Airbus Defence & Space

Airbus experimental test pilot Tony Flynn says the work involved repeatedly putting test aircraft MSN2 down inside a critical 100m-long touchdown box, at operating weights of up to 114t. This equates to an operator being able to transport and deliver a 30t armoured vehicle, he says. And as the tests performed included a safety margin, he adds: “we know we can even go heavier than that” aircraft weight.

With this aspect of the landing tests complete and trials on a gravel strip previously performed at Ablitas in Spain, Airbus Defence & Space will perform similar trials on loose soil and sand during 2016.