First flight of the A400M airlifter!

The Airbus A400M military transport aircraft took off for the first time on Friday, December 11 at 10:15 am in Seville, southern Spain. People worldwide were able to follow this landmark flight live on the Net. For all the stakeholders in this program, including manufacturers, customers and future users, this first flight was a major step forward in this large-scale partnership formed by the European aviation industry.

The aircraft's takeoff weight for the first flight was 127 metric tons (279,400 lb), including about 15 metric tons of test equipment and two metric tons of ballast. It landed after a flight lasting 3 hours and 45 minutes, during which the crew expanded the flight envelope over a broad range of speeds, in particular testing the extension and retraction of the landing gear supplied by Safran. The first flight was witnessed by several thousand spectators, including the King of Spain Juan Carlos, the French Minister of Defense Hervé Morin, Louis Gallois, Chief Executive Officer of EADS and Thomas Enders, President and CEO of Airbus.

The Safran group, a major partner in this program, was represented by Marc Ventre, a member of the Group's Executive Board and Executive Vice President, Aerospace Propulsion branch, and Philippe Petitcolin, Chairman and CEO of Snecma, and non-executive Chairman of Europrop International (EPI).

"The aircraft's performance on takeoff was very impressive," said chief test pilot Edward Strongman after the flight. A key to this performance is the TP400-D6 turboprop engine developed by Europrop International, the consortium in charge of the engine program. The four engines delivered very satisfactory performance throughout the flight. As one of the flight crew said after landing, "We even had to reduce power during takeoff, since the aircraft was accelerating too fast!" Safran provides other major systems and equipment on the A400M, including the landing gear and systems, wheels and carbon brakes, navigation system, electrical wiring and air starters.

The next step for the A400M is to demonstrate its performance qualities, advertised as exceptional. Five test aircraft will be used for this final development stage, including three during the first half of 2010. Certification is expected within 24 months, and will be issued simultaneously by civil and military authorities. The first production aircraft will be delivered to the French air force in late 2012 or early 2013. To date, the A400M has logged 184 orders from eight countries.