29 JUNE, 2016 BY: DOMINIC PERRY
Embraer is to give its developmental KC-390 tanker/transport an international debut at the Farnborough air show, ahead of a multi-national promotional tour for the jet-powered type.
One of two flight-test examples will make the journey across the Atlantic, initially arriving on 4 July at the Alverca site of OGMA, the Portuguese aerostructures supplier which is 65% owned by Embraer. The company builds parts, including the main fuselage, for the programme. The aircraft will then transfer to the UK show around two days later, Embraer says.
During its stay in Portugal, the International Aero Engines V2500-powered type will be demonstrated to the Portuguese air force, which has signed a letter of intent (LoI) to acquire six examples. These are expected replace its Lockheed Martin C-130Hs, which are due to be retired in around 2018.
However, Portugal – which is a strategic partner in the KC-390 programme – has yet to sign a firm contract for the airlifters, and its socialist government has shown little urgency to firm up its tentative commitment.
So far Brazil, with a deal for 28 units, is the only confirmed customer for the KC-390. However, a number of other nations have signed LoIs covering an additional 32 examples. Embraer is confident these will be converted into firm orders, although it offers no timeframe.
“It would make no sense to give you a forecast, but I can only say to you that we are very positive,” said Jackson Schneider, chief executive of Embraer’s defence division, at a 28 June pre-Farnborough briefing in Évora, Portugal.
“I think the presentation at Farnborough will create a new momentum,” he adds.
Aside from Portugal, the demonstration tour will take in the Czech Republic, the programme’s other European partner, with a LoI for two aircraft. The KC-390 will also visit a number of other prospective customer nations in Europe, Africa and the Middle East, says Schneider.
A second prototype joined the programme in May, and so far the two flight-test articles have accumulated around 320h. “We are hitting all the goals that we set out at the beginning of the process,” Schneider says.
Recent test points covered have included in-flight opening of the ramp and cargo door, and paratroop and cargo air drop trials.
In addition, high- and low-speed extension of the hose and drogue refuelling system has been performed. Refuelling trials are due to take place in the second half of 2016, says Schneider.
Other evaluations this year will include crosswind trials to be held in Chile, another tentative customer for the type.
Certification and initial operating capability are scheduled for the second half of 2017, ahead of first delivery to the Brazilian air force in 2018. Embraer is “on target” to meet this revised deadline, he says.
Initial components – wing skins and the horizontal and vertical stabilisers – for the first customer aircraft are in production at Embraer’s Évora factory, and are due for delivery to the Gaviao Peixoto final assembly line in September or October.