AKCD 2013 Airbus A400M.
One of the highlights of AKCD2013 was a presentation by Tony Flynn, a test pilot with Airbus Military. Flynn took the audience on a tour through the meticulous testing process of the latest Airbus military aircraft. Airbus has built a total of five test aircrafts. The testing period and subsequent approval process of new aircrafts take a lot of work and cost a small fortune, especially for one that is to be as versatile as the A400M. A single flight to test the air-to-air refuelling, for example, easily amounts to over one million euro. Here are some of the actions the A400M needs to perform flawlessly: transporting large cargo (its cargo space fits a Chinook), transporting troops, taking off from and landing on strips that have seen better days, and the above mentioned air-to-air refuelling (on both the providing and the receiving end).
The testing process follows an incremental path. This means that all the aircraft’s characteristics are evaluated and adjusted if need be, before moving on to new tests. An example: the A400M should be able to drop paratroopers. The first step in testing this is to drop water balloons. Once the balloons exit the aircraft satisfyingly, the next step is to use dummies. Only if and when they pass the test as well, a real-life parachutist will jump from the aircraft. This step-by-step testing is the procedure for every little detail. Just take a sec and imagine seeing someone in military uniform throwing water balloons from a plane. After all, that’s how it’s done.
The presentation was supported with video footage from the test flights. Some of these clips can be found below this article.
VMCG-test: Turn of one of critical engines during take-off
Landing on an unpaved airstrip
Loading the A400M
Formationflight of the 5 testplanes