PAS 2023 – Flying Embraer’s KC-390 Millennium

David Oliver

With the 6th aircraft delivered to the Brazilian Air Force and one close to be delivered to the first export customer, Embraer is strongly pushing its KC-390 Millenium on the international market, and allowed a group of journalists to fly it on the eve of the Paris Air Show inauguration

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Embraer had a high profile at the Paris Air Show 2023, and at it centre was the KC-390 Millennium tactical tanker/transport. Having achieved its Full Operating Capability (FOC) in March 2023, the sixth aircraft having been delivered to the Brazilian Air Force shortly before the exhibition. The first C-390 to be delivered to an export customer, the Portuguese Air Force’s NATO specification aircraft, was on display in the Le Bourget static park.

Powered by two 31,330 lb thrust IAV V2500-E5 turbofan engines, mounted forward on the high wing, the KC-390 has a cruising speed of Mach 0.8 can attain a controlled descend rate of 9,000 ft/min at its 300 mph (560 km/h) maximum IAS. When its flaps are fully deployed at 40°, it has a stall speed of 120 mph (193 km/h) IAS. The high mounted engines are forward to the four-wheel main landing gear which prevents sand or snow being ingested when landing at austere airstrips.

EDR On-Line was invited on board Embraer’s third test aircraft, which was originally destined to be the first delivered to the Brazilian Air Force. Although the aircraft was only carrying a relatively light payload, acceleration, take-off in less than 3,000 ft and high angle climb was impressive, before levelling out at 8,000 ft. At cruising speed, the noise and vibration was noticeably lower compared to that experienced in turboprop military transports, despite the turbofan engines being mounted close to the fuselage. With Embraer’s President and CEO, Francisco Gomes Neto on board, the aircraft reduced speed, the cabin depressurised and the 11 ft 4 in-wide cargo ramp lowered.

In the spacious cockpit, there is room for a third crew member. Equipped with head-up displays, the pilots use sidesticks, the first to be fitted to military transport aircraft. The sidestick architecture adapts the force versus deployment profile according to the mode of operation and it is possible to have different feel profiles optimised for each mission.     

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After a 1 hr 15 minute flight in the local Paris area, Cmdr Jordão touched down at Le Bourget before applying reverse thrust and bringing the Millennium to a halt to show its ability to land on short airstrips.

Embraer followed the flight with a briefing attended by the Brazilian Air Force Commander Lieutenant Brigadier Marcelo Kanitz Damasceno. It was announced that the KC-390s had flown 9,100 flight hours since in entered service, and the 20 C-130H and two KC-130H aircraft that it will replace, would be withdrawn from service at the end of 2023. Pilot conversion from C-130 to KC-390 takes eighteen months and in future they will be able to use the recently inaugurated KC-390 Full-Flight Simulator at the Embraer Academy, located at the Eugênio de Mello unit in São José dos Campos. Developed by Embraer in partnership with Rheinmetall, the KC-390 FFS, with D-level qualification, includes operation under normal and emergency conditions, a package to support military operations, and more than 350 failure simulations.

Photos courtesy Embraer and D. Oliver