Embraer’s KC-390 returns to testing

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The Embraer KC-390 program has returned to flight testing after a slowdown caused by Brazil’s financial crisis. The prototype tanker/airlifter flew from the manufacturer’s test center in Gavião Pexioto, Brazil, on October 26, the second time it has flown since its maiden flight on February 3, 2015.

Embraer planned to fly the prototype again before the Dubai Airshow earlier this month. During this second flight, of approximately an hour’s duration, Embraer tested the initial flight profile, flight-control responses and general aircraft behavior.

An earlier program schedule called for Embraer to certify and deliver the first KC-390 to the Brazilian Air Force in 2016, but the slowdown was announced in July, when the company cited devaluation of the Brazilian real and government spending cuts. The manufacturer now expects to certify the aircraft in 2017 and to begin deliveries the following year.

“We had an economic crisis in the country. We never had any problem with the customer, and specifically [not]with the program,” said Paulo Gastão Silva, Embraer KC-390 program vice president. “We [remain]confident because the customer is happy and confident with us on the program.”

The eight months between test flights were not wasted. Embraer used the time “to do some normal corrections” which came to light during the development. It also conducted ground vibration tests to validate aero-elastic models, Silva said. Tests are ongoing in an avionics rig, mission systems rig and ‘iron bird’ systems integration bench with full cockpit, landing gear system and electric and hydraulic flight controls.

A second prototype will begin flight testing early next year. The two aircraft should accumulate about 2,000 flight hours. Two structural test vehicles will be used for static and fatigue testing and partial test vehicles for different structural and systems testing.

November 13, 2015

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