According to Defense-aerospace.com, the first prototype of the new Embraer KC-390 jet transport aircraft has logged more than 100 flight hours since resumed its flight test program in October 2015. A second prototype will fly in the first half of this year.
The Brazilian manufacturer says it is on the path to certification in the second half of 2017, with first deliveries to the Brazilian Air Force in 2018, two years later than originally planned due to an interruption of flight testing because of pressures on government budgets in the wake of Brazil’s economic crisis.
«We are happy with the aircraft, which had good availability for the tests, sometimes making two flights a day», said vice president Paul Gaston Silva. «The plane is behaving very well and we were able to cover the entire flight envelope. We tested speed limits, Mach number and altitude, and tested all positions of slats, flaps and landing gear. We also made an on-board shutdown, with engine and APU restart. We can confirm all our predictions for the flying qualities and performance».
The Brazilian Air Force plans to purchase 28 units. He declined to comment on Embraer’s ongoing campaign to interest other countries, but said that the statements of intention of five foreign partners (Argentina, Chile, Colombia, the Czech Republic for 32 additional aircraft remain intact. Embraer also recently joined the bidding in Canada.
According to Silva, there are good prospects for the KC-390 in the Asia-Pacific market. «It is a multi-mission aircraft and so is suitable for many missions, including transport and aerial refueling. It can carry all kinds of cargo, including vehicles and helicopters, and is very competitive in terms of life cycle costs».
Embraer successfully performed the first flight of the new military transport and aerial refueling jet, the KC-390 on February 3, 2015. Test pilots Mozart Louzada and Marcos Salgado de Oliveira Lima and flight test engineers Raphael Lima and Roberto Becker flew the aircraft for 1 hour and 25 minutes, conducting an evaluation of flying qualities and performance.
«This first flight is a fundamental step toward accomplishing the task with which we were entrusted. The KC-390 is the result of a close cooperation with the Brazilian Air Force and international partners, representing what is most likely the greatest technological challenge that the Company has ever encountered in its history. We are profoundly moved for having achieved this key milestone», said Frederico Fleury Curado, President and CEO of Embraer.
«The program continues to move forward as planned and the KC-390 has drawn interest from several countries around the world», added Jackson Schneider, President and CEO of Embraer Defense & Security. «We are proud to once again keep our commitments in the development of this aircraft, which will set a new standard in the category of tactical military transport».
«The KC-390 will be the backbone of transport aviation for the Brazilian Air Force. From the Amazon to Antarctica, the fleet of 28 aircraft will play a key role in the diversity of projects of the Brazilian State, from scientific research to the maintenance of sovereignty», noted Aeronautics Commander, Lieutenant-Brigadier General Nivaldo Luiz Rossato.
On its maiden flight, the KC-390 crew performed maneuvers to evaluate its flight characteristics and conducted a variety of systems tests, having benefited from an advanced campaign of simulations and extensive ground tests. «The KC-390 behaved in a docile and predictable manner», said Captain Louzada. «The advanced fly-by-wire flight control system and the latest-generation avionics make flying easy and render a smooth and precise flight».
According to Guy Norris from Aerospace Daily & Defense Report, Embraer originally hoped to begin test flights before the end of last year, but took longer than expected to complete a final series of avionics integration tests following the aircraft’s rollout in October. The manufacturer has targeted initial deliveries to the Brazilian air force around the end of 2016, though this looks more likely to slide into 2017 given the ambitious flight test effort ahead of it. A second KC-390 has also been assembled and is set to join the program shortly.
Embraer has so far taken firm orders for 28 aircraft from Brazil, but is confident the fly-by-wire transport could clinch up to 20% of the Lockheed Martin Hercules C-130 replacement market, which it estimates is around 728 aircraft in 77 countries.
The KC-390 is a joint project of the Brazilian Air Force and Embraer to develop and produce a tactical military transport and air-to-air refueling plane that represents a significant advance in terms of technology and innovation for the Brazilian aeronautics industry.
On May 20, 2014, Embraer and the Brazilian Air Force signed the serial production contract for the delivery of 28 KC-390 aircraft and initial logistic support. Besides the order from the Brazilian Air Force, there are current purchase intentions from other countries, for a total of 32 additional aircraft.
The KC-390 is a military transport aircraft developed to establish new capacity and performance standards in its category, delivering at the same time the lowest life-cycle cost in the market.
A genuine multimission aircraft, it can transport and launch cargo and troops, perform medical evacuation, search and rescue, as well as fight forest wildfires, among other missions. The KC-390 can also be used as aerial refueler and it has great flexibility, refueling from helicopters to high-performance fighter aircraft.
Equipped with a modern cargo handling system, the KC-390 can transport large-sized cargo such as pallets, vehicles, helicopters, in addition to troops, paratroopers, medevac stretcher or mixed configurations.
The state-of-the-art integrated avionic system and a fly-by-wire flight control facilitates the aircraft piloting, reducing pilot workload and increasing the mission’s efficiency.
The KC-390 can also be equipped with an advanced self-defense system and has ballistic protection in critical areas, which increases the survival capacity in hostile environments.
The V2535-E5 engine, rated at 31,330 pounds of thrust, was selected in July 2011 by Embraer Defense and Security and the Brazilian Air Force, which established the KC-390 requirements. While Embraer and its customers desire maximum commonality with the V2500 engine, changes have been made to optimize installation with the new airframe.