Aloft at Last

The A400M, the Airbus military transport designed to compete against Boeing’s C-17 and Lockheed Martin’s C-130J on the international stage, made its much delayed maiden flight on Dec. 11. The turboprop aircraft took off from Airbus’ facility in Seville, Spain, with a six-man crew, flew for nearly four hours and then landed back at Seville, performing as expected, said Airbus officials in a release. “The take-off performance was impressive, we explored a lot of the operational flight envelope, and it was a delight to operate,” said chief test pilot Edward Strongman. Airbus, even with this milestone behind it, still faces the daunting task of working out a deal with its European and Asian A400M customers to keep the aircraft program going despite more than three years of delays and massive cost overruns. (See also the Wall Street Journal’s report (requires free registration) and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer’s report.)