Airbus Military has enjoyed two notable firsts in its A400M programme, with the debut flight of development aircraft MSN003 having been achieved while its first two aircraft were also airborne.

Flown from the company's San Pablo final assembly site near Seville, Spain, MSN003 took off at 13:57 local time with a crew of five, including experimental test pilots Tony Flynn and Francois Barre.

"The addition of MSN3 to the fleet is great news, and will let us push ahead even more rapidly with the flying programme," says Airbus head of flight operations Fernando Alonso.

 A400M MSN003 - Airbus Military
© Airbus Military

As of 9 July, the A400M test fleet had logged 100 test flights and a combined 400 flight hours, the EADS company says. This represents continued steady progress since last month's Berlin air show, where MSN001 made its show debut after around 250h had been amassed by the fleet.

Airbus Military will have five test aircraft available by mid-2011, with these required to fly a combined total of 3,700h during development testing of the A400M. The transport is expected to enter service around late 2012, following a delivery delay of around three years.

Carrying a medium instrumentation load, MSN003 will be dedicated to tasks including proving the A400M's autopilot and navigation systems. The aircraft will be assigned to test duties conducted from Airbus's Toulouse site in France.

MSN001 will arrive in the UK on 16 July ahead of its weekend participation in the Royal International Air Tattoo at RAF Fairford in Gloucestershire. The aircraft will then take part in the daily flying display at the Farnborough air show from 19-22 July.