Grizzly 4 Test Flight

PETALING JAYA: As I had mentioned before, I was given the opportunity to fly on board Grizzly 4, the fourth A400M prototype during its recent visit to Malaysia.

I flew on April 16, 2012, the first day of test flights. Initially they told us we cannot take pictures in during the test flight but at the last moment, the green light was given although we were not allowed to take pictures of the cockpit.

A400M chief test pilot Ed Strongman gave a briefing to those onboard, four at a time, on the features of the cockpit, which was derived from the A380. It is a truly modern cockpit with HUD, flat screens and side stick controllers. Everything is controlled via a track ball on instrument panel. Strongman admitted that the Hercules was a more pilot’s plane compared to the A400M but he is sure proud of it since he had flown every (5) prototypes including the first one. The first production plane is expected to be ready soon and Strongman cant wait to fly it.

Anyhow, the cargo compartment is huge indeed. It can even fit a Hercules cargo cabin in it! And the A400M cargo is very squarish and flat to make it easy to load things inside. The rear wheels compartment cannot be seen from the cargo cabin as does the wing roots.

Jump seats are the individual types unlike the bench style on the Hercules. Ambient noise and vibration in the cabin even during take-offs and landings (with the rear hatch compartment opened) is negligible compared to the Hercules.

Airbus Military claimed that eight A400M operating costs (due to its lower fuel consumption and higher cargo carrying capacity) would be lower than 15 Hercules. Whether or not this is true will only be confirmed once the A400M starts operations – for the RMAF 2015.

As for me, only a flight to Pakistan on the A400M – which should be faster and more comfortable – could be a final review of the plane’s capability. Do I think its still wrong to purchase the A400M back in 2005?

I still think so,despite the apparent merit of the plane, especially if they do not take into account the extra planes (and its associated costs) in service with RMAF when they prepare the operational budget for 2015 and beyond.

— Malaysian Defence

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