Embraer says flight testing is going well with its KC-390 tactical transport, as it gears up to deliver the first production aircraft to the Brazilian air force in 2018.
The first two KC-390s, prototypes 001 and 002, have clocked over 1,000 flight hours, says Paulo Gastão Silva, vice-president of the KC-390 programme.
A third full-scale test vehicle, number 801, is undertaking structural static tests. The KC-390's wing ultimate load test has been completed. A fourth aircraft, number 802, will also join the certification campaign and be used for fatigue tests.
Silva says the two prototypes have shown high availability, with results matching design goals.
Work successfully undertaken includes deploying paratroopers and performing cargo drops. Crosswind tests have been performed in Punta Arenas, Chile and at Río Gallegos, Argentina. Several other tests have also been undertaken.
The KC-390's secondary role as an air-to-air refueller has also started testing. The aircraft has performed dry contacts with Northrop F-5 fighters. Silva says wet contacts will begin soon.
In addition, a rig identical to the KC-390's cargo handling system has been set up. Silva showed a video of armoured personnel carriers and other vehicles driving in and out of the simulated cargo hold. The KC-390 has been certificated for various combinations of light and heavy vehicles.
A major milestone will come in 2018, when the Brazilian air force will receive two examples out of its 28 aircraft order for the type. This will be followed by two aircraft in 2019, and three each in subsequent years.
Silva adds that the assembly capability could be ramped up to two aircraft per month, but this would depend on the success of sales efforts.
The KC-390 will also undertake a demonstration tour later this year. Silva confirmed that this will include New Zealand, which wants to replace five Lockheed Martin C-130H aircraft with an average age of over 50 years, but he declined to specify other countries the KC-390 will visit.