Embraer on February 3 performed the first flight of its new KC-390 military transport. Test pilots Mozart Louzada and Marcos Salgado de Oliveira Lima and flight test engineers Raphael Lima and Roberto Becker flew the aircraft for 1 hour and 25 minutes, evaluating flying qualities and performance.
“This first flight is a fundamental step toward accomplishing the task with which we were entrusted. The KC-390 is the result of a close cooperation with the Brazilian Air Force and international partners, representing what is most likely the greatest technological challenge that the Company has ever encountered in its history. We are profoundly moved for having achieved this key milestone”, said Frederico Fleury Curado, President and CEO of Embraer.
“The programme continues to move forward as planned and the KC-390 has drawn interest from several countries around the world”, said Jackson Schneider, President and CEO of Embraer Defence & Security. “We are proud to once again keep our commitments in the development of this aircraft, which will set a new standard in the category of tactical military transport.”
“The KC-390 will be the backbone of transport aviation for the Brazilian Air Force. From the Amazon to Antarctica, the fleet of 28 aircraft will play a key role in the diversity of projects of the Brazilian State, from scientific research to the maintenance of sovereignty”, said Aeronautics Commander, Lieutenant-Brigadier General Nivaldo Luiz Rossato.
On its maiden flight, the KC-390 crew performed manoeuvres to evaluate its flight characteristics and conducted a variety of systems tests, having benefited from an advanced campaign of simulations and extensive ground tests. “The KC-390 behaved in a docile and predictable manner,” said Captain Louzada.”The advanced fly-by-wire flight control system and the latest-generation avionics make flying easy and render a smooth and precise flight.”
On May 20, 2014, Embraer and the Brazilian Air Force signed the serial production contract for the delivery of 28 KC-390 aircraft and initial logistic support. Besides the order from the Brazilian Air Force, there are current purchase intentions from other countries, for a total of 32 additional aircraft.
Brazil’s defence ministry has invested heavily in the KC-390 programme, covering $2 billion in development costs and signing a 7.2 billion reals ($2.7 billion) order for 28 aircraft last year.
But a tight federal budget led the defence ministry to push payment on some projects from late last year into 2015, leading Embraer to warn of negative 2014 cash flow.
“We expect that should be resolved in the first months of the year, especially regarding the KC-390, but that didn’t affect the timeline of the project,” Schneider said.
Argentina, Colombia, Chile, Portugal and the Czech Republic have together expressed interest in 32 of the new cargo jets.
Over the next 15 years, Embraer sees a market for more than 700 planes worth over $50 billion in the segment, as countries look to replace older versions of Lockheed Martin Corp’s famous Hercules airlifter.