The first M-346 advanced trainer in the industrial pre-series configuration made its official first flight July 7, flown by Alenia Aermacchi Chief Test Pilot Olinto Cecconello. The aircraft, identified as LRIP00, took off at 7.15 pm local time from the Venegono facilities of Alenia Aermacchi, a Finmeccanica group company.
July 7, shortly after 7:00 pm -- M-346 LRIP00 is taxiing to the active runway at Aermacchi's Venegono field for its first flight. Photo: Aermacchi
Upon landing, Cecconello expressed his satisfaction with the aircraft. "Compared to the two M-346 prototypes, the flying controls of LRIP00 are even more representative of a fifth-generation aircraft."
The test pilot added that the new version will "offer a 20% performance improvement over the two prototypes, mainly due to the lower weight and the related ability to carry additional fuel, the improved outward visibility and the optimized pilot/aircraft dialogue, in part through an electronic check-list."Shortly after, the (it has to be said: stylishly-painted) jet is airborne for the first time. Photo: Aermacchi
According to the manufacturer, the first pre-series M-346 bears witness to the "maturity of the program that - thanks to intensive development work performed on the two prototypes - has led to the optimization and industrialization of the design."
The first flight marks the beginning of the production phase of the M-346 program, which will see the introduction of an "advanced production line" designed by Alenia Aermacchi based on digital manufacturing processes.
The design effort for the baseline industrial configuration aircraft has concentrated on structural optimisation, with additional benefits in terms of improved maintenance.
The goal has been achieved, says Aermacchi, through a "different spacing of wing spars and fuselage frames, together with a wider use of composite and titanium parts."
Together with the integration of a new main landing gear and the standardization of general mission systems, this has brought about a "considerable reduction" in the empty weight, in the order of about 700 kg., says the Italian aircraft builder.
Two M-346s will participate in the Farnborough Air show 2008 next week, where between 14-20 July the pre-series aircraft will be displayed in the static area of the Finmeccanica Pavilion (0E1/2).