Airbus Military has cut short its first series of unpaved runway trials involving the A400M, after encountering softer than expected ground conditions in Germany.

Development aircraft MSN2 arrived at Cottbus-Drewitz airport on 22 May, following a transfer flight from Toulouse, France. It had been expected to remain at the location until the end of this week to perform landings on a grass strip at the site, but was involved in a minor incident during a test conducted the following day.

"The left-hand main wheels went through the upper surface of the runway at the end of a maximum braked rejected take-off exercise," Airbus Military confirms. The mishap followed earlier work which it says demonstrated that "the aircraft's general behaviour on the rougher surfaces typical on grass runways and anti-skid braking characteristics were excellent."

Following an inspection, "the aircraft was recovered without damage and flown back to Toulouse," the company says. It adds that pre-test measurements of the landing surface "appeared to show that the runway was in a suitable condition for the tests", and that "further analysis is now in progress to gain a more in-depth understanding of the runway lower support layers".

A400M Cottbus - Airbus Military 

© Airbus Military

Aircraft 'Grizzly 2' was conducting trials at Cottbus-Drewitz airport 

Flight tests involving Airbus Military's five-strong fleet of "Grizzly" transports had by late May exceeded 1,100 flights and 3,200h. The company expects to secure full civil type certification for the A400M during July, and to deliver its first production example to the French air force by the end of this year, or early in 2013.

The initial unpaved runway trials form part of additional work to prove the military capabilities of the aircraft, and which are not required to be completed ahead of either of the key milestones targeted for later this year. "We will continue testing when we are ready," the company says, adding that the setback is "nothing serious".

Source: Flight International