Friday, 6 April 2018

Repaired KC-390 test aircraft takes FIDAE bow


A KC-390 aircraft that was grounded by Embraer for several months after an October flight test mishap returned to the spotlight as the star of the FIDAE air show.

The tanker-transport made its debut at South America’s largest aerospace industry event eight years after the Chilean government committed to buy the aircraft.

Current Chilean president Sebastián Piñera, who was sworn into office for the second time last month, also was president in 2010 when his government committed to join neighbouring Brazil’s KC-390 project as a customer.

But the status of the KC-390 never became an acquisition priority under the previous government, and Piñera’s policy only a few weeks after his swearing in still isn’t known.

During a 4 April interview at FIDAE, Gen Lorenzo Villalón Del Fierro, chief of the general staff of the Chilean air force, declined to answer any questions about fixed-wing aviation procurements.

Although Chile was one of five countries that committed to import the KC-390, so far only Portugal has moved forward with plans to buy the jet-powered tanker-transport.

Ten months ago, the Portuguese government opened negotiations with Embraer to buy five KC-390s with an option for a sixth, but talks remain ongoing, says KC-390 programme director Paulo Gastão.

Portugal’s acquisition plans call for receiving the first KC-390 in 2021, Gastão says, but time is running short to keep the first delivery on track. Portugal’s aircraft must comply with NATO standards, which will require Embraer to perform some additional development work, Gastão says.

Meanwhile, Embraer has a lot of work still to do before it can deliver the first production-standard KC-390 by the end of this year to the Brazilian air force’s (FAB’s) 11th Wing in Rio de Janeiro.

The FAB declared initial operational capability with the KC-390 in December with only two flight test aircraft flying. To achieve full operational capability by 2019, Embraer still has to conduct “wet” refueling missions, air-drop heavy cargo loads and validate the aircraft’s self-protection systems, Gastão says.

The programme could ill-afford to lose one of only two flight test aircraft. The aircraft registered as PT-ZNF was put out of action on 12 October. During a slow-speed stall test, the aircraft behave in a way that wasn’t expected and sustained damage. Embraer replaced the aerodynamic wing-to-body fairing and the fuel sponsons on the fuselage. The aircraft returned to service on by early March.

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