May 18, 2015
France Flying A400M in 'Essential Operations'
On May 10, Defense Minister said the A400M would fly for "essential operations" only, pending the outcome of the Spanish inquiry into the loss the of the MSN 023 unit.
France has six A400Ms, which have accumulated 1,700 flying hours.
Much of the flying will have been for evaluation and test by the Air Force, needed to reach an initial operating capability (IOC).
French special forces are keen to receive the fully tested and equipped aircraft. One of the key training aspects is for pilots to fly the transport and tanker as a fighter aircraft, including fast and low. The Air Force is also moving to train fighter pilots to fly transport aircraft.
An important French requirement is installing a radar warning receiver among the defensive aids suite offered.
The six A400Ms are in the Touraine squadron at the Orleans air base. The first aircraft was delivered in 2013.
The French Air Force often flies the A400M, dubbed Atlas, to support the Barkhane and Chammal operations. The service flew an A400M around the world from Feb. 19 to March 6.
The Spanish military air crash authorities have sent the two black box flight recorders to the French Bureau Enquêtes Accidents Défense Air (BEAD), the defense accident inquiry office. There are hopes the French technicians can deliver readings of the cockpit voice and instrument recorders in 48 hours.
Fernando Alonso, head of the A400M program, was one of the eight company staff onboard the MSN 4 on May 12, the first test flight since the crash. The company-owned prototype plane took off at 2:45 p.m. from Toulouse, southern France, and landed at 4:35 p.m. at Seville.
The flight restrictions, which exclude the company-owned aircraft, now depends on the eagerly awaited results of a Spanish accident inquiry, which may lead to guidance notes on flying the aircraft. Airbus will continue with the flight test program, needed to test more capable versions.
A restricted use of the A400M led to cancellation of a flight to carry international journalists on a planned press trip ahead of the Paris Air Show.
The military cockpit draws heavily on civil technology developed for the Airbus A380 superjumbo. The four high-powered turboprop TP400 engines are built by Europrop International, a consortium comprising Rolls Royce of Britain, Safran's Snecma of France, MTU of Germany and ITP of Spain.