Flying the A400M


2013-05-31 by Robbin Laird

Yesterday I flew the A400M for the first time.

Talking with the flight crew during the Airbus Military flight for journalists at the Trade Media Event, May 30, 2013. Credit Photo: SLD

My friend Francis Tusa has done a short interview for me identifying the impression we had and we will post soon.

The quietness of the aircraft, and the rapid ascent in a short space was impressive. 

It is clear that the aircraft combing elements of both the C-17 and the C-130 will help redefine 21st century concepts of operations for lift in the era of expeditionary logistics.

How the market will sort out is anyone’s guess, but this plane is clear part of the redefinition of that market.

Having done the flight, and looking back on the last couple of years, it seems appropriate to post some videos that gives a sense of the plane and the flying experience.

A key aspect of the development of the aircraft has been leveraging Airbus’s commercial experience.

A particular case in point is the cockpit viewed above and seen in the video below.

Earlier, we interviewed Richard Thompson about this commercial dynamic with regard to the cockpit on the A400M.

SLD:  The key point is that because Airbus has designed the aircraft in close consultation with the customer, you are able to migrate the Airbus commercial experience in a number of areas to the A400M. Presumably, leveraging the commercial design team is also useful in shaping a more realistic agenda on the military side with what is possible from a design point of view?

Richard Thompson: That’s an interesting point, because in fact, there is a self correcting process at work here, almost like a safety valve, because of the natural constraint imposed upon the design teams of having to work with an Airbus process, which as you know, is rooted in over 30 years of design philosophy for the commercial market.  The A400M has been developed by leveraging the technology from a strong product family concept.

SLD:    Like the cockpit.

Richard Thompson: It is a design pedigree developed over years.  It’s very difficult for somebody to come along and to say to these guys, these engineers, I want you to design something completely off-the-wall for me, something that’s never been tried before, because they won’t know where to begin.

And some people might turn around and say well, that’s a disadvantage, surely. 

But I think you picked up on the point that it is in fact an advantage, because you have guys with a lot of experience in the civil/commercial world being put together with people in the military world saying, “This is what I would like this to do.” And the civil guy coming back and saying, “That’s great, but you realize that if you go down that road, it’s going to cost a lot more and be too risky.  We recommend that you stick with this instead, that we develop this further, but that we stick to the basic concept and architecture, which is proven, tested, reliable, works, and which will achieve certification a lot easier and will anyway deliver 95% or more of what you want.”

Below is a video which gives a fair sense of the what the A400M cockpit (modeled on the A380 cockpit by the way) feels like in flight.

And for another sense of flying the A400m, there is the video showing the 2012 flight of 5 A400Ms flying in formation.