This week Airbus announced that the first flight of the Airbus A400M has been scheduled to the week December 7 - 13, if weather permits.
The A400M is the new European airlifter of the 21st century. It has more than twice the payload and volume of the C-130 Hercules and C-160 Transall, that it will replace. It will play an essential role in enhancing Europe’s airlift capabilities, whilst enabling the establishment of common support, training and operational procedures and greater interoperability in multi-national humanitarian and peace-keeping missions.
The Airbus A400M features a fly-by-wire Flight Control System with sidestick controllers, a flight envelope protection system that was already proven in Airbus commercial aircraft, an advanced structural design incorporating extensive use of composite material and high performance turboprop engines. Its Europrop International TP400-D6 enginge is the second most powerful turboprop engines after the Kuznetsov NK-12!
Seven European countries - Belgium, Britain, France, Germany, Luxembourg, Spain and Turkey - have ordered 180 planes, in most cases to replace an ageing Transall and C130 Hercules fleet. A South African order of 8 aircraft was just cancelled on November 5.