Airbus Military’s delayed A400M transport has been edged closer towards its planned flight debut before year-end, with the type having run all four of its engines simultaneously for the first time.

Achieved at EADS Casa’s San Pablo site near Seville, Spain, the 18 November milestone saw aircraft MSN001’s Europrop International TP400-D6 turboprops run at ground- and flight-idle settings over a 4h period. The engines “performed flawlessly”, says Airbus, with subsequent inspections showing “that there had been no hot-air or fluid leaks”.

 A400M TP400s turn - Airbus Military
© Airbus Military

The engine runs came at the end of a three-day test period which had started with so-called “dry” and “wet cranking” of each TP400 in turn, before progressing to use the aircraft’s auxiliary power unit. The engines “will be run up to maximum take-off power in further runs planned to take place shortly,” Airbus says.

Airbus chief executive Tom Enders visited Seville to witness the engine trial, which he says “paves the way to the A400M first flight in the weeks to come.” The company expects to fly MSN001 before the end of next month, but has yet to commit itself to a firm date, noting: “it will take place only when the [flight test] crew feels the aircraft is ready”.

Meanwhile, Airbus personnel are so busy with preparing MSN001 for its first flight that they have so far not found the time to remove the South African flag from the aircraft’s fuselage (below). Pretoria earlier this month surprised the company by cancelling its order for eight A400Ms, deliveries of which had originally been scheduled to begin next year.

 A400M flags
© Airbus Military

South Africa’s withdrawal has reduced the A400M order book to 184 aircraft for launch customers Belgium, France, Germany, Luxembourg, Spain, Turkey and the UK, plus export buyer Malaysia. The programme’s European partners are in the process of negotiating a new contract for the delayed airlifter with Airbus via the OCCAR procurement agency.