The First Pre-series M-346 Performs its Maiden Flight

Released on Tuesday, July 8, 2008
M-346 Master
kg - kilograms
LRIP - Low Rate Initial Production
UK - United Kingdom
The first Alenia Aermacchi M-346 new generation advanced trainer made a successful public flying debut yesterday evening at Venegono airport. Some doubts were created by poor weather in the area, but the rainstorms cleared in the late afternoon allowing the program to proceed.

Chief test pilot Olinto Cecconello lifted off the striking all-red M-346, escorted by Captain Quirino Bucci flying chase in the no. 2 prototype. The two aircraft gave a brief display before landing. Both are slated to depart for the UK shortly to take part in the Farnborough Air Show.

The red paint helps distinguish the third M-346 - which is known inside the company as Low Rate Initial Production 00 (LRIP 00) - from its two predecessors, which are respectively blue (the first aircraft, flown in 2004) and grey (the second, flown in 2005). In the industrial baseline configuration the series M-346 weighs about 700 kgs less than its predecessors. Because of this, said Capt. Cecconello, "this gem will improve performance by 20% over the prototypes".

The aircraft sports the new landing gear, which replaces the off-the-shelf AMX units fitted to the prototypes, an electronic checklist, flight controls even more representative of those of 5th generation combat aircraft, and the dorsal airbrake in a more forward position. Alenia Aermacchi is also finalizing the plan for a state-of-the-art assembly line, designed to "digital manufacturing" concepts. This alone shows how the M-346 is quickly moving from development to a full production phase.

Source: The first pre-series M-346 flies!

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