Malaysian Defence visits A400M FAL

SHAH ALAM: IN late October, I was invited to Seville, Spain for the Airbus Defence & Space Trade Media Briefing 2015. The briefing took place at the Airbus DS facility next to the Seville airport, the site for the final Assembly Line (FAL) of the A400M Atlas and the C295 medium transport.

The original TMB was supposed to be in May but it was cancelled after MSN23, destined to be delivered to Turkish Air Force, crashed.

Apart from the briefings, we were given a tour of the Atlas final assembly line for an overview on how the latest RMAF transport aircraft are assembled. When we visited the assembly line, RMAF second A400M was on its final assembly process. A week after we left, the aircraft left the hangar for its paint job, before undergoing its flight tests prior to delivery, slated by December.

RMAF second Atlas,, M54-02, after under going its paint job.
RMAF second Atlas,, M54-02, after under going its paint job. Malaysian Defence visits A400M factory

Unfortunately due to various issues, we were unable to visit the training and simulation centres which is located on the same site. As for the Atlas FAL, the first part of the hangar we were brought were the wing and fuselage assembly hangar.

As you are aware, the major components of the A400M are assembled in various part of Europe where components are flown in from various suppliers including Malaysia’s own CTRM. The wings for example are made in the UK while the cockpit and fuselage are built in Germany. These major components are then flown in the Beluga aircraft, which is part of the Airbus network.

At one part of the hangar, at STA 72 workstation, the wings and wing- box are joined together, using a large jig.

STA72 where the wings and wing-box are join up.
STA72 where the wings and wing-box are join
up.

In the same cavernous hangar, the cockpit and fuselage section are also joined up together again using another jig. During this process the landing gears are fitted.

Cockpit of MSN39 being joint-up with its fuselage.
Cockpit of MSN39 being joint-up with its fuselage.
The fuselage joint up work-station.
The fuselage joint up work-station where the landing gears are installed.

After the cockpit and fuselage are joined, they will brought to the STA 40 work station where the wings and the vertical stabiliser are installed. The automated jig at this workstation is the biggest in hangar as the aircraft itself 45 metres long (the width of a football field) and its wings 42.4 metres.

STA40 where the final integration of the joint fuselage, wings and vertical integration takes place.
STA40 where the final integration of the joint fuselage, wings and vertical tail integration takes place.

After the work is completed, the airframe will then be towed to the STA 35A work station where the full ground tests are conducted. During the visit, MSN32, RMAF second A400M was at the station undergoing tests.

MSN32, the second A400M Atlas destined to be delivered as M54-02 to RMAF was at STA20 when Malaysian Defence visited the A400M FAL in late October.
MSN32, the second A400M Atlas destined to be delivered as M54-02 to RMAF was at STA35A when Malaysian Defence visited the A400M FAL in late October.
.

After passing the ground tests, the airframe is then moved to the next work-station where all the furnishings including the engines are installed.

STA20 where the cockpit, furnishing and engines are installed.
STA20 where the cockpit, furnishing and engines are installed.

The airframe is then taken to the paint shop where the appropriate paint scheme according to the customer are put on. Further tests and ground engine runs are performed following the paint job before the first flight test are conducted. Various flight tests are conducted prior to delivery. On average, it will take about 100 days for a single A400M to be assembled prior to the first flight test.

A Luftwaffe A400M Atlas undergoing checks prior to delivery.
A Luftwaffe A400M Atlas undergoing checks prior to delivery.

During the visit, at least three A400Ms belonging to the Turkish, Germany and French air force were in various process of flight tests prior to delivery.

French Air Force A400M Atlas (top) undergoing tests prior to delivery. Next to it is EC-404 , one of the test A400M used by Airbus DS for test flights.
French Air Force A400M Atlas (top) undergoing tests prior to delivery. Next to it is EC-404 , one of the test A400M used by Airbus DS for test flights.

A video tour of the factory.

— Malaysian Defence

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