LONDON – This week saw Airbus announce the retirement of one of its A400M testbeds known as MSN4 in Bremen, Germany.
MSN4 has had a substantial 12-year period of testing, surpassing over 2,000 flight hours, with its 1,000th flight that took place this week.
Known as “Grizzly 4” in the Airbus world, it has been used for all kinds of test flight campaigns through the years to develop key capabilities such as Aerial Delivery, Low-Level Flight, or Air-to-Air Refuelling, among others.
In Photos: The Life of MSN4…
Below are some photos that Airbus showcased in its release of the MSN4 retirement story:
Commenting on its retirement was Cesar Gonzalez, one of the Flight Test Engineers on the program:
“MSN4 was our Aerial Refuelling workhorse, as it was the one where we tested receiver capabilities with tankers like A330 Voyager and C160 Transall.”
“As a tanker, we used MSN4 to develop and certify pods refueling with F18 receivers, Hose Drum Unit refueling with F18s and A400M receivers, the Cargo Hold Tanks (CHT), and more recently, the Helicopter Aerial Refuelling capabilities with H225M Caracal”.
“I feel particularly proud of the mission that first refueled an A400M receiver (Grizzly 6) from an A400M tanker (Grizzly 4)”.
“Many challenging campaigns, many successful flights, many impressive achievements, and few surprises”.
Also adding to the retirement was Simon Nicastro, the A400M Flight & Integration Test Programme Manager at Airbus:
“I fondly recall the early days of aerial delivery tests where we went from the very start of single loads by gravity and extraction, towing of (large) parachutes at low level and high altitude, to dropping 25 tonnes of loads in a single sequential stick of extracted platforms, as well as air displays at some of the UK airshows”.
Back to Its Birthplace…
The reason Bremen is the retirement place of MSN4 is that that’s where the aircraft was originally built.
Marc Steckling, Head of Site in Bremen at Airbus Defence and Space, emphasized this point:
“We are happy to have the MSN4 back home after all these years and all that it helped accomplish for the A400M development. It is in good hands here, where we will get it ready for its next chapter”.
Dennis Neumann, Head of the A400M Industrial Programme in Bremen and currently leading the project for the future of the MSN4, gave some hints on the future plans of the aircraft. “This project hits the heart of all of us here at the Bremen site”
“Before being placed at its final location next to the Bremen Airport, where everyone landing in Bremen will see it, it will get a new coat of paint and be configured to host team meetings and workshops as well as be part of the official guided site tour”.
It remains clear that for those working on the A400M, that MSN4 meant a lot to the team as it was vital to the continuous testing that took place with the program.
Looking ahead, it’s going to be interesting to see what its further uses will be or whether it will be stored for preservation for the general public to see.
Whatever happens, MSN4 will always be remembered by those at Airbus, with its legacy living on with the plethora of military customers who operate the type.