Boeing T-X Headed Toward First Flight

By: Valerie Insinna, November 29, 2016

ORLANDO, Fla. — The Boeing-Saab T-X trainer is on track to fly by the end of the year after completing afterburner engine runs last week, Boeing officials said.

Only a few more major tests remain before the plane makes its inaugural flight, said program manager Ted Torgerson during a Nov. 23 interview ahead of the Interservice/Industry Training, Simulation and Education Conference (I/ITSEC).

“We are clicking off all of our test points, we have tested around somewhere around nearly 1,200 test points on the jet on ground tests,” he said.

The next test involves putting the plane, engine running, through the motions of a flight — takeoff, climb and landing — with the aircraft tied down to the runway, Torgerson said. The company will also check how the airplane responds to simulated system failures. After that, a Boeing-Saab board will clear the aircraft for flight, and the Federal Aviation Administration will certify it. Finally, the company will conduct low-, medium- and high-speed taxi tests before flying the jet.

“We’re looking to fly soon, before the year is over” Tom Conard, the company’s T-X capture team leader, reiterated during a Tuesday briefing at I/ITSEC. “And as we’re preparing that jet to fly, our flight crews are training in the training system devices to prepare them exactly what they’re going to see in the jet.”

A second Boeing T-X was revealed to the press during a September rollout ceremony shortly before it went through structural proof tests. The company is currently powering all of the systems on the airplane, will fuel the plane in a matter of weeks and plans to move quickly through tests for an early 2017 flight, Togerson said.

The Boeing-Saab team is competing against one other clean-sheet design, manufactured by Northrop Grumman. Two other teams are banking on less risky existing designs. Lockheed Martin has partnered with KAI to offer the T-50A, a version of the Korean company’s T-50 trainer. Raytheon joined with Leonardo and CAE on the T-100, which uses Alenia Aermacchi M-346 as the basis.

If all goes according to schedule, the Boeing-Saab plane will fly around the same time as the US Air Force issues its final request for proposals, which officials have targeted for a December release. The service has already put forward several draft request for proposals, which detail threshold requirements as well as objective requirements that could knock hundreds of millions of dollars off a company’s total evaluated price.

Boeing, for its part, has stressed that its clean-sheet design was tailored specifically for the threshold requirements, and officials have not detailed how close it can get to the objective.

« We’re going to meet all the requirements and growth provisions for the future,” Conard said. « It has no radar, it has no weapons, it is not doing anything except advanced fast jet training. »

Asked whether Boeing plans to incorporate such features for potential opportunities currently under discussion by the Air Force — such as an exercise of light-attack aircraft that could inform a program of record, or a proposal to hire industry to play the aggressor role in training exercises — Conard demurred.

“We’ll look at that after we win T-X,” he said. “We’ve got to win T-X, and then from there we will able to adapt and work in future variants. And I’ll leave it at that.”



Alenia Aermacchi Announces the First Flight of the Italian Air Force T-346A

The first M-346 aircraft produced for the Italian Air Force (ITAF) had a successful first flight today, yesterday 31 March 2011. The ITAF has designated the plane as the T-346A.

“The first flight of the T-346A, soon to enter service with our country’s Air Force, is an important milestone for the M-346 program, a milestone reached through the dedication of the entire work force of the Venegono plant,” said Dr. Giuseppe Giordo, CEO of Alenia Aeronautica and Head of the Finmeccanica Aeronautics Sector.

Flown by Chief Test Pilot Quirino Bucci, the aircraft took off at 4 p.m. from Venegono, the home airfield of Alenia Aermacchi, a Finmeccanica company controlled by Alenia Aeronautica.

The flight lasted 40 minutes and the T-346A reached a maximum altitude of 15,000 ft., covering the planned flight envelope in terms of speed, angle of attack and load factor. The flight also included manoeuvres to assess aeromechanical handling of the aircraft and systems functionality.

After landing, Captain Bucci expressed appreciation for the aircraft. “Once again, the aircraft demonstrated its excellent characteristics in terms of handling, energy and man-machine interface, all crucial points in training future pilots to fly new generation combat aircraft.”

The ITAF T-346A is the first M-346 series production aircraft completed. The Alenia Aermacchi site in Venegono now operates a leading-edge, highly-automated production line capable of delivering up to 48 aircraft per year with competitive cost and high quality in order to meet the highest program requirements.

The remaining aircraft for the Italian Air Force are already being built on this new assembly line, and production of the 12 aircraft ordered by the Singapore Air Force are also underway.

Alenia Aermacchi M-346 marketing activities are very active both in Europe and the rest of the world. Alenia North America is preparing to bid on the U.S. Air Force’s T-X Trainer Replacement Program with the T-100, the U.S. variant of the M-346. The T-100 is the most modern, high performance, safe for student pilots and the lowest life cycle cost of any modern trainer aircraft on the market today.

The Air Forces of several nations have expressed great interest in this aircraft, which meets the latest training requirement of the new generation aircraft such as the F-22, F-35 and the Eurofighter.