Airbus Military's first A400M has been moved from the final assembly line at its San Pablo plant near Seville for a two-week series of ground tests that will edge the transport closer to its delayed first flight.

Aircraft MSN001 was towed outside on 2 September, having recently undergone system checks and received unspecified modifications that EADS-led Airbus Military says will make it "a more mature aircraft at first flight". The delayed milestone - originally scheduled for early 2008 - is expected to take place "around the turn of the year", it adds.

Originally rolled out in June 2008, MSN001 will now undergo fuel and pressurisation tests and navigation and communication system checks, says Airbus Military. It will then have its four Europrop International TP400-D6 turboprop engines and auxiliary power unit installed, following the delivery of the final full authority digital engine control software, it adds.

EADS hopes to agree a new contract with its seven European launch customers for the €20 billion ($28.5 billion) A400M programme by year-end. Deliveries of the nations' combined 180 transports are expected to start around late 2012 or early 2013, over three years behind schedule.

 © Airbus Military

Source: Flight International