A400M receives initial type certificate from EASA

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Airbus Military has received the initial type certification for its A400M transport, marking a key milestone on the road to first delivery around the turn of the year.

This first approval, known as a Restricted Type Certificate (RTC), was presented by European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) Executive Director Patrick Goudou at an internal ceremony yesterday in Toulouse, France.

The RTC is a critical step towards the award of full civil type certification which is expected in mid-2012 following the completion of 300 hours of function and reliability (F&R) flight tests, and towards military Initial Operating Clearance later in the year.

As part of the flight-test activity the A400M has recently visited countries in Latin America and South East Asia, and in the upcoming period will travel to the “home” nations that ordered the aircraft and the Middle East in the frame of the F&R tests.

Airbus Military said the fleet of five A400M development aircraft continues to make good progress in the intense flight-test campaign in order to ensure delivery of a reliable aircraft and has now completed more than 3,100 hours in the air, despite continued engine challenges.

Cedric Gautier, Airbus Military Head of A400M programme, said that, “Achieving civil and military certification of the A400M as foreseen in the programme is an immensely challenging task, but the process of working on both simultaneously provides important benefits for our customers in the future. It is deeply satisfying to receive this initial certification, confirming the good progress that has been made towards the delivery of the first aircraft.”

South African companies Denel Aerostructures (DAe) and Aerosud are both full industrial partners in the A400M programme, providing design, engineering and manufacturing of major components for the aircraft. In addition, Cobham South Africa in Cape Town supplies satellite communications antennae for Airbus Military and Airbus commercial aircraft.

DAe is responsible for one of the largest composite-metallic hybrid structures on the A400M, namely the Wing-to-Fuselage Fairing (WFF). The WFF protects the equipment under the centre wing portion against lightning strikes, hail damage and bird strikes. Each fairing is 15 m long, 7 m wide, and nearly 3 m high.

DAe also manufactures the aircraft’s Top Shells – positioned in front of and behind the wings where it is joined to the fuselage. They are made up of more than 1 100 parts, consisting of a large machined skin, engineered out of an aluminium alloy. Its brackets support the electric and electronic wiring, hot air and heat exchange piping as well as the aircraft’s life-rafts.

Both parts were designed from scratch by DAe and are manufactured at the company’s production facilities located next to O R Tambo International Airport.

Denel Aerostructures is currently ramping up its production to meet Airbus Military’s delivery schedules. Within the next four years DAe will manufacture 24 ship sets per year, moving off the production lines for final assembly in Seville, Spain.

For its part, Aerosud is responsible for a number of secondary structures on the A400M, including the nose fuselage linings, cargo hold linings, and cockpit linings, the cockpit rigid bulkhead and the nose fuselage galleys as well as the wingtips.