2012-11-20 According to an Airbus Military press release:
The initial three production A400M new generation airlifters are seen together for the first time in this latest image of the Airbus Military final assembly line (FAL) at Seville, Spain. The photo shows MSN7 (furthest from the camera, and first to be delivered to a customer – France) awaiting imminent installation of its engines, alongside MSN9 (centre, and the first aircraft for Turkey) and MSN8 (closest, and also for France) undergoing Ground System Tests.
These tests follow once the structural assembly of the aircraft has been completed. Additionally, final assembly of MSN10, also for France, has begun at the Airbus Military facilities in Seville (Spain). All four aircraft are due for delivery in 2013.
We reported earlier on progress on the A400M.
Second Line of Defense visited the Seville final assembly line (FAL) in late September for an update on the delivery schedule and process.
And our guide to the effort was the senior Airbus Military engineer Jesús Portillo, in charge of the A400M Program Management Office.
As with engineers, the approach taken is that there are always problems, and there are always solutions. The task is always resolution.
For a program, which will have at least a 50-year service life, the first planes will be down payments on the future for the countries, which buy them.
The A400M is a new product built in a 21st century way; it is a complex program with many efficiencies and sustainable improvements built in, along with new capabilities for a tanker/lifter aircraft.
The program has been slowed by a well-documented gear box issue evident in the return of the aircraft from its Asian tour and test runs. We got an update on the engines and the progress moving forward as well.
We focused as well on the nature of manufacturing for 21st century aircraft, the machines and the engineering-labor team necessary to manufacture modern aircraft.
The investment in an advanced production base is impressive and one hopes that the ramp up of production, which the base will allow, will come earlier rather than later.
Like the F-35, many analysts and politicians, do not focus on the ramp up possibilities of highly automated assembly lines of the sort represented by the A400M.
And a basic rule of 21st century aerospace life, the building of new programs like the F-35 and the A400M, requires massive investments in the production and manufacturing process and as such, the core platforms for the 21st century will be workhorses for a long time to come.
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