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Airbus A400M takes maiden flight
December 11, 2009 9:30 AM   Subscribe

Airbus A400M took its maiden flight today. video 1, video 2, video 3. cockpit
posted by JohnR (38 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
Nice! I was a developer for some of the software on this plane. Unfortunately, i have no really juicy stories to tell.
posted by leviathan3k at 9:44 AM on December 11, 2009


That is one a badass plane, but I kept expecting the A-team to jump out of the cockpit. Where'd they find that music?
posted by Salvor Hardin at 9:49 AM on December 11, 2009 [3 favorites]


hahaha jesus christ that music
posted by p3on at 9:50 AM on December 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


Nice! The cockpit link doesn't work for me, but I found this photo of it, and I have to say hats off to Ed Strongman, who manages to find something like that intuitive.
posted by bjrn at 9:58 AM on December 11, 2009


I think I just had an unprepared field operation... in my pants.
posted by e.e. coli at 10:01 AM on December 11, 2009 [2 favorites]


Cool looking plane. How's it stack up compared to what exists? And what are the benefits of propellers on a plane this big?

I remember visiting the neocon grandparents a while back. Fox News ran a story on the Airbus A380, and my grandmother looked at it and said, "What's Airbus?"

My grandfather replied, "Some airline company, French or something."

My grandmother then said, "Ugh," and contorted her face as if she smelled something awful.

Such is the danger of not going to war with Dubya. Even 6 years later, your industry will be hated by Real Americans.

Let's see them hate on this plane when it goes into service.
posted by mccarty.tim at 10:04 AM on December 11, 2009


You see those four 11,000 Shaft horsepower is a bad mother--
(Shut your mouth)
But I'm talkin' about Shaft!
posted by stormpooper at 10:04 AM on December 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


PS: Yes, I know Airbus is actually a company spanning multiple European countries.
posted by mccarty.tim at 10:06 AM on December 11, 2009


MSN001 took off from the EADS facility in Seville with Airbus’s chief military test pilot Ed Strongman at the controls and Ignacio “Nacho” Lombo in the right seat.

Hollywood has nothing on real life.
posted by rocket88 at 10:07 AM on December 11, 2009 [9 favorites]


Dear old Snoopy used to fly over my house on a regular basis when they were testing those engines. And let me tell you, that engine isn't quiet. Admittedly, they were probably running her under as much load as they could, but she was significantly noisier than the standard hercs. It is quite a lot cleaner than the hercs we see though...
posted by twine42 at 10:08 AM on December 11, 2009


Cool looking plane. How's it stack up compared to what exists? And what are the benefits of propellers on a plane this big?

Short Take Off and Landing
posted by Ironmouth at 10:15 AM on December 11, 2009


Also, props are better able to deal with unimproved runways than turbofans. One piece of debris in a turbofan and it's done.
posted by kuujjuarapik at 10:19 AM on December 11, 2009


Buried in one of the articles: clean takeoff and in-flight video. What's missing is the landing video, I'd love to see that. That's one ugly airplane.
posted by Nelson at 10:22 AM on December 11, 2009


Nacho, by Strong Man
posted by e.e. coli at 10:22 AM on December 11, 2009


leviathan3k: "Nice! I was a developer for some of the software on this plane. Unfortunately, i have no really juicy stories to tell."

This is the best kind of thing anyone could ask for. "You know what was crazy and dysfunctional about developing for this plane? Nothing. It was all routine."
posted by boo_radley at 10:38 AM on December 11, 2009 [3 favorites]


The first video was CG, the second was just the prop engine winding up, and the third were clips from a flight sim.

The plane sounds cool but this FPP leaves a lot to be desired.
posted by delmoi at 10:45 AM on December 11, 2009


Am I the only one waiting for Indy to punch a Nazi into those propellers?
posted by msbutah at 10:57 AM on December 11, 2009


And what are the benefits of propellers on a plane this big?

For one thing, turboprops are much more fuel efficient than jets, though slower.

And I'm not sure if this is generally true, but I think of prop aircraft as better at operating out of short fields as might be found in miltary settings. Also at unimproved airfields that would have dirt, gravel and other debris, it is easier to protect the smaller air intakes of turboprops than the larger air intake of a jets.
posted by exogenous at 11:28 AM on December 11, 2009


This is the best kind of thing anyone could ask for. "You know what was crazy and dysfunctional about developing for this plane? Nothing. It was all routine."

I demand that the plane fly upside down when crossing the equator.
posted by GuyZero at 11:32 AM on December 11, 2009


Damn. I was hoping this was another luxury airliner with pretty pictures of what rich people can expect when they fly on planes: spiral staircases, bars, big comfy pods that turn into beds/workstations/bubble baths.

Ah, well. You can't always get what you want.
posted by brina at 11:54 AM on December 11, 2009


You know what was crazy and dysfunctional about developing for this plane?

Actually, the engine selection and development appears to have been quite a case of the "crazy and dysfunctional". Airbus has never sought to hide its discontent about having been forced, for purely political reasons, to choose the TP400 over an existing, 20% cheaper engine offered by Pratt & Whitney Canada, especially as it blames blunders in the development of the TP400's FADEC software for much of the 3-year delay in the A400M program.

BTW, across the Atlantic, another airplane with a troubled development history is nearing its first flight (its scheduled first flight, at least).
posted by Skeptic at 12:13 PM on December 11, 2009


Damn. I was hoping this was another luxury airliner with pretty pictures of what rich people can expect when they fly on planes: spiral staircases, bars, big comfy pods that turn into beds/workstations/bubble baths.

Ah, well. You can't always get what you want.


Sure you can.
posted by Dormant Gorilla at 12:19 PM on December 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


And I'm not sure if this is generally true, but I think of prop aircraft as better at operating out of short fields as might be found in miltary settings.

It is generally true. Propellers offer more thrust at low speed than jets, which helps the aircraft reach take-off speed more quickly. The drawback is that jets are more efficient at high speeds. Since speed is however not the first priority in a military transport aircraft, propellers are generally preferred.

Also, props are better able to deal with unimproved runways than turbofans. One piece of debris in a turbofan and it's done.

I once worked in a propeller maintenance and repair plant, and I can tell you that propellers don't cope with debris much better (and, because of their bigger diameter, have more chances of hitting something). With four times eight propeller blades, I anticipate that the A400M will need a steady stream of replacement blades to keep going in places like Afghanistan. So, while United Technologies' Pratt & Whitney division lost out on the A400M's engine, I think that its Hamilton Sundstrand division, whose French affiliate Ratier Figeac got the contract for the propellers, is going to do rather well out of this aircraft.
posted by Skeptic at 12:37 PM on December 11, 2009


The drawback is that jets are more efficient at high speeds

And high altitudes. At low altitudes (high pressure), the compressor on a jet can suck in a massive amount of air, which requires a massive amount of fuel to remain ratiometric. To help balance the amount of thrust to amount of fuel burned, modern "jet plane" engines are really turbo-fans with high bypass ratios. Ultra-High Bypass propfans could improve efficiency even more.
posted by autopilot at 1:00 PM on December 11, 2009


From the first link: Around 50 engineers in each of the two main ground facilities in Seville and Toulouse were monitoring flight-test parameters.

The idea of a) having two ground control rooms and b) having 50 people in each, in addition to the four specialists on the aircraft, makes me think the flight test group at Airbus Military are either a) insane or b) inflicted with... how can I put this diplomatically... "interesting management oversight".
posted by Nice Guy Mike at 1:40 PM on December 11, 2009


why doesn't have those winglets that seem to be de rigeur on all new transport aircraft now?
posted by marvin at 1:54 PM on December 11, 2009


Interesting that they're going with pure probe-and-drogue for their refueling capabilities. Does anyone besides the USAF use the boom system?
posted by squorch at 3:09 PM on December 11, 2009


Maiden flight
posted by stargell at 3:09 PM on December 11, 2009


No, it is just the USAF using the boom (although EADS will support it for some aircraft). There are advantages for high volume fuel transfers to the boom, but it also has the significant disadvantages that it is very easy to damage and there is only one boom per aerial refueler. The probe-and-drogue has its own set of pro/con arguments, the biggest being that it can support multiple aircraft refueling simultaneously and is much less fragile.
posted by autopilot at 3:23 PM on December 11, 2009


A400M-Landing.mpg
posted by shoesfullofdust at 3:40 PM on December 11, 2009


autopilot's comment led me to Aerosila's Pages of history
The enterprise proceeded to create screw actuators – power ball-screw mechanisms with integrated gear-boxes to change wing sweep of airplane.

Because of the technical characteristics these unique products were used onboard MiG-23, Tu-22M, Su-24, Tu-144, Tu-160 aircrafts and others.

Screw actuators, which are the critical parts especially, had none of breakdowns over their long-term exploiting.
and
Application of electronics in the new systems of automatic control of propellers allowed to increase number of control functions, to use diagnostics and synchrophasing of propellers.
by the fourth "of" vertigo overcame me. but i still want to click everything on that page.
posted by shoesfullofdust at 4:30 PM on December 11, 2009


autopilot It's my understanding that the only reason for the boom system to have been developed and to persist is that the probe-and-drogue system was invented by the British company Flight Refuelling Ltd. and that the USAF was seized with a serious case of Not-Invented-Here syndrome when confronted with that limey tech. I mean, even the US Navy, Marine Corps, and Army prefer probe-and-drogue for their aircraft (although it is fair to admit that it would be a tad difficult to use the boom system for refuelling all their choppers).
posted by Skeptic at 4:56 PM on December 11, 2009


skeptic, my understanding was the USAF mostly uses boom because boom is better for delivering a massive amount of fuel quickly (ie, refueling a B-52 or C-141), and that SAC dominated the decision-making around refueling.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 5:26 PM on December 11, 2009


NIH is a very powerful force, especially when national pride is involved... But the volume of fuel that can be delivered for SAC-sized bombers is a very compelling argument, as ROU_Xenophobe points out.

My experiments with aerial refueling of UAVs made me a believer in the flexible drogue system, especially when you don't have top-notch pilots flying the boom-er and boom-ee. Plus I tend to favor rotorcraft, which already need a drogue adapter to use the USAF boom system.
posted by autopilot at 6:01 PM on December 11, 2009


More photos here..
posted by JohnR at 2:17 AM on December 12, 2009


Another advantage to prop over jet engines is the thrust response, i.e. how quickly thrust can be ramped up or down. A prop can do this by changing the pitch of the individual propeller blade, while a jet has to change the rotatition rate of the entire engine.
A propeller that is pitched flat against the flight direction also is very effective at braking the plane.
It is easier to put the engine in reverse,again by pitching the props, not something you'd do in flight but it helps if you need to maneuver the plane on an improvised air strip without the help of tow trucks.
All things very useful for landing and taking of at small short runways.
posted by Catfry at 6:28 AM on December 12, 2009


Throttle lag on big turbines can be on the order of many seconds, requiring additional planning if go-around power is required. Even turbo-props take much more time than piston engines to respond (and four-stroke pistons are slower than two-stroke engines). Unlike cars, aircraft engines typically only operate at a single RPM (selected for efficiency, noise, wear, aerodynamics and other criteria) and adjust the amount of fuel to control the power output at that RPM. This ignores, of course, small aircraft like Cessna 150s with fixed pitch props.

Most jets can open panels to direct their thrust backwards, typically to reduce landing distance, although they still must be able to safely land in the event of a thrust reverse failure (or asymetric deployment). Some aircraft are even certificated to use their thrust reversers to back up -- at IAD the MD80s do "powerback" maneuvers to clear the gate rather than pushback (no room for the tugs? faster turns at the gate? just to be cool? I'm not sure).
posted by autopilot at 10:15 AM on December 12, 2009


Here's live tracking of the Boeing 787 test flight now.
posted by exogenous at 12:01 PM on December 15, 2009


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