Grizzly 4 Retires

Airbus A400M Grizzly 4 in Subang back in 2012 with a RMAF roundel. Malaysian Defence picture

SHAH ALAM: Airbus A400M MSN4 aircraft has been retired after more than 2,000 flight hours and 1,000 flights and many missions and campaigns completed. The Airbus prototype known as `Grizzly 4´ among the team, returns to Bremen after nearly twelve years of pushing boundaries to develop A400M capabilities to its maximum. Grizzly 4 came to Malaysia in 2012 for a visit allowing Malaysian military and media personnel a closer look of the aircraft. This was some years before the first RMAF A400M were delivered.

Grizzly 4 last flight. Airbus

From Airbus:

With the pilots Michel Gagneux and Luis Daniel Sabariegos in the cockpit, the MSN4 performed its last flight to Bremen – number 1,000 and last one in its career – where it will be displayed from now on for a well-deserved retirement after nearly twelve years in service, and after its extraordinary contribution to the development of the A400M.

Since its first flight on 20 December 2010, the team behind the MSN4 has taken on every challenge along the way, and now faces its retirement with pride on how this aircraft helped reimagine the future of military operations, turning the A400M into the mature, reliable and modern aircraft it is today.

Grizzly 4´: The rise of a warrior

Airbus A400M MSN4 has been used for all kinds of test flight campaigns through the years to develop key capabilities such as Aerial Delivery, Low Level Flight or Air-to-Air Refuelling, among others. With around 200 flights and 500 flight hours inside the cockpit of the MSN4, Ignacio Lombo, Chief Test Pilot at Airbus Defence and Space, has been witness and contributor to the development of the A400M. “I will keep Grizzly 4 in my memory as a strong and robust beast. We have taken it to the limit in speed, Mach, altitude, load factor (g’s) and almost tore off its skin!”, he shared. “This aircraft has exceeded all expectations in all kinds of operations with superior performance”.

MSN4 has also been key in the development and certification of the Air-to-Air Refuelling (AAR) capability as it is crucial for A400M operators today to fly further and safer on their military operations, as well as being able to perfect combos with other military platforms.

The MSN4 has been the determinant for the development and certification for cargo and parachute drops – these being key capabilities for A400M operators today – as it was designed in such a way that the cargo hold was free of instrumentation and, therefore, fully usable for aerial delivery or additional fuel tanks (CHT). “I fondly recall the early days of aerial delivery tests where we went from the very start of single loads by gravity and extraction, towing of (large) parachutes at low level and high altitude, to dropping 25 tonnes of loads in a single sequential stick of extracted platforms, as well as air displays at some of the UK airshows”, recalled Simon Nicastro, A400M Flight & Integration Test Programme Manager at Airbus.

Bremen: Back to the beginning

The MSN4 is now back home in Bremen, where every A400M is born, with the `scars´ of all the battles it helped win during its remarkable career. “I will always keep this last flight in my memory. As the Captain, I speak on behalf of the team behind our dear friend Grizzly 4, and we want to thank this aircraft for the great times we have spent together”, Gagneux said. González shared the emotion: “I can’t help feeling that Grizzly 4 is my prototype, my baby. I feel a bit sad, but also proud of the work we achieved together with the team. Godspeed, mate! Time for you to rest after an exciting journey!”.

The team that now welcomes the MSN4 in Bremen is excited about the months ahead. “We are happy to have the MSN4 back home after all these years and all that it helped accomplish for the A400M development. It is in good hands here, where we will get it ready for its next chapter”, said Marc Steckling, Head of Site in Bremen at Airbus Defence and Space.

Dennis Neumann, Head of A400M Industrial Programme in Bremen, and currently leading the project for the future of the MSN4, gave some hints on the future plans of the aircraft. “This project hits the heart of all of us here at the Bremen site”, he said. “Before being placed at its final location next to the Bremen Airport, where everyone landing in Bremen will see it, it will get a new coat of paint and be configured to host team meetings and workshops as well as be part of the official guided site tour”.

Grizzly 4 first flight. Airbus


— Malaysian Defence

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