Airbus Military's fifth and final A400M development aircraft has joined the European airframer's "Grizzly" flight test fleet, with the transport having completed a 2h 10min debut sortie from Seville, Spain, on 20 December.
Aircraft MSN6 made its first flight with a crew of two experimental test pilots and three test engineers, and took off at a weight of 125t.
The first flight milestone marked "the end of a highly successful year for the [A400M] programme", Airbus Military said.
© Airbus Military
The Grizzly fleet had by late December accumulated more than 2,500h of the 3,700h required to complete a core programme of flight testing before the start of production deliveries, it added.
The availability of MSN6 will be a key factor in achieving this goal, as it is the first A400M to have been built in a production-representative configuration. It will be used for activities including electromagnetic interference and cargo development testing, plus extreme cold weather trials and operational demonstrations. The aircraft will also undergo 300h of so-called "functioning and reliability" testing intended to prove the A400M's readiness to enter operational use.
"The Grizzly fleet will immediately start 2012 with an aggressive test programme, including an increasing proportion of military tests, in preparation for first delivery around the turn of the year 2012-2013," Airbus Military said.
To be handed over to the French air force, production aircraft MSN7 is now in final assembly at the company's San Pablo site near Seville.