The maiden flight of the A400M in Andalusian skies will enter the annals of Andalusian, Spanish and International aeronautics. It will also be remembered for the very complicated process it entailed due to the magnitude and complexity of what is a unique project for the aeronautical industry. The following is more than just an overview of the programme for a new military airlifter.
For Andalusia, and especially Seville, it is the story of a collective dream which had its origins over a decade ago; the story of a dream come true.
The events of last 11 December at the San Pablo Plant in Seville will go down in the annals of Andalusian, Spanish and European aeronautical history. However, the road of the A400M programme, which has had its final stretch in An- dalusia, has been long and tortuous indeed. It was a difficult process due to the technical complexities and delays resulting from the development of this pioneer aircraft for the provision of military transport and support for aerial forces, which was further complicated by the resulting financing difficulties of a highly ambitious project in technical terms, even for the aero- nautical industry. The first flight of the A400M was only a dream 10 years ago. Ten years of highlights and rumours regarding the programme, of which we have selected the following milestones:
The Spanish government signs the agreement for the integration of the Spanish company CASA in the new European aeronautical, aerospace and defence consortium EADS, together with the German company DASA and the French firm Aeroespatiale-Matra.
At that time Andalusia, and more specifically its capital, Seville, was already being considered as the site of the project for the new A400M military airlifter, the most advanced aircraft of its kind.
Official programme Kick-off for the A400M military airlifter following the signing of the construction agreement in the German city of Bonn between the Air Forces of France, Germany, Belgium, Spain, the united Kingdom, Turkey and luxembourg and the Airbus company. These nations
agreed to purchase a total of 180 aircraft in an initial order with a value of 20,000 million euros. They were later joined by Malaysia and South Africa.
The works begin for the Final Assembly line (FAl) of the A400M on the site of the EADS plant at San Pablo, Seville, next to the airport of the Andalusian capital. The facilities involve an investment of over 600 million euros and are expected to be completed in two years in order to begin
manufacturing the aircraft.
The FAl for the A400M begins to receive the first parts of the A400M, more specifically, the horizontal tail plane manufactured in the company’s plant at Tablada, Seville. However, production began in January 2005 in Germany with the manufacture of the first section of the fuselage.
The first problems emerge for the project, as the European group recognises that there are technical difficulties in certain areas which may delay the programme, particularly in relation to the engines. The assembly of the aircraft begins in August 2007 with the arrival of the fuselage in Seville, six months after the scheduled date.
Before a crowd of more than 2,000 which includes His Majesty the King of Spain Juan Carlos I, the roll-out of the A400M from its hangar takes place in Seville. The event is attended by the authorities of the countries participating in the programme and the management of EADS. Weeks beforehand, the company recognises that the project is unaffardable due to the high financial risk.
The maiden flight of the A400M is postponed for the third time, and worst of all … there is still no exact date due to the complexity of the engines. The countries involved in the programme begin to claim compensation from EADS due to the continuous delays.
New problems with the propulsion system force EADS o announce that the first deliveries of the aircraft will not ake place until three years after the first flight of the A400M, orecast for the end of the year. France is to be the first country to receive the first aircraft in late 2012.
Customer countries representatives the OCCAR meet n Seville with Spanish Defence Minister Carme Chacón as their host and agree to grant a moratorium to the pro- gramme as a gesture of support to the project. The nego- iations to deal with the excess costs continue between he partners and the company, which calls on the different partners to collaborate with the financing.
The works to supply and mount the different parts of he aircraft are nearing completion and the Airbus Military plant at San Pablo receives the engines which will finally power the A400M on its maiden flight. The final phase of he ground tests begins, followed by flight tests by the engi- neers and pilots who will crew the aircraft.
Rumours escalate regarding the A400M’s maiden flight, but EADS neither confirms nor denies anything. South Africa, one of the customers for the programme, decides to cancel its order of eight aircraft, exactly one month before the scheduled date of the first flight of the A400M, due to the delay in the de-
livery dates for the aircraft. Meanwhile, all the ground tests are completed with testing of the engines and autonomous movement on the runway at San Pablo Airport.
11 December 2009
The A400M makes its first flight into Andalusian skies.
A crowd of more than 2,000 witnesses the event in Seville, with the presence of the King of Spain, Juan Carlos I. The event is followed live worldwide via satellite transmission, especially in all the Airbus and EADS production plants.
The first flight of the new plane of EADS group has been a complete success, with many relevant milestones during more than ten years of development