The first flight of the new Aermacchi M-346 is seen as the start of a new chapter in the company's history, company chairman Giorgio Brazzelli said at Farnborough.
The first flight of the M-346 advanced Lead-In Fighter Trainer (LIFT) on 15 July was an historic milestone for Aermacchi. The company predicts that there is a requirement for 4,500 new military trainers by 2023 and is confident of winning European orders.
Brazelli commented: "The training market for military pilots has seen profound changes. The company has to evolve to cope with these changes. New fighters such as the Eurofighter and Rafale are pushing old trainers into obsolescence.
"We see our training products as part of an integrated training system, including simulators.
"We believe we will see a natural pooling of military flying schools and we will be providing a service."
Pilot for the second flight on 16 July was chief test pilot Maurizio Cheli of Alenia Aeronautica. He commented after the flight: 'My previous experience is with Eurofighter and from what I see, this is a promising new trainer'.
Aermacchi's training aircraft portfolio includes the primary SF-260E/TP, the basic S-211 and new M-311, as well as the advanced MB-339 and M-346. The M-311 is a development of the S-211A and features an advanced new cockpit, structural enhancements and new engines.
The M-346 programme forsees initial operating capability (IOC) for the first series production aircraft by the end of 2007, with final operational clearance in 2010.
Source: Flight Daily News