Airbus Defence & Space, San Pablo Sur, Espaňa
Airbus Defence and Space, San Pablo, Sevilla, España
Following an idea given to me from another Aviation Enthusiast I approached the Public Relations Department of Airbus Defence and Space A400M and C295 production facility at San Pablo, Sevilla.
Somewhat to my surprise and I have to say my delight I was offered a visit to this facility. I am led to believe that we were one if not the first of the British Groups to be afforded a visit to San Pablo, Sevilla.
Together with five friends we arrived promptly for the visit just before 09:30 on Monday October 8th 2018. We were met at the Security entrance and escorted to the visitors’ entrance of the main A400M (Atlas) production lines.
Here we were introduced to our guide Jesus Arroyo Medina and the lady that put the tour together for us the Visitor Centre Coordinator, Zaira Torrado Gonzales, seen here sitting at her desk
In the reception lobby is a mural depicting most of the aircraft of the Airbus family and it shows the companies who over the years have become part of the Airbus family. The most recent in relative years is CASA who have a separate production facility on the same site producing the variants of the Airbus C295.
The A400M Atlas is the latest propeller driven aircraft to come from Airbus. It is a medium to heavy lifting platform that is used widely by European and Far Eastern Operators. The A400M is European, has four engines, Europrop TP-400. There are two on each wing one rotates clockwise while the other rotates anti-clockwise. It was designed by Airbus Military as a Tactical airlifter with strategic capabilities to replace older transport aircraft such as the C-160 Transall and the Lockheed (now Lockheed-Martin) C-130 Hercules.
From the lobby we were taken to a presentation area on the second floor of the building to a room which is modeled on the interior of an A400M. We were shown a video of the capabilities of the A400M Atlas. It showed that the A400M is capable of being refueled in the air by another A400M, role equipped for delivering cargo, Para troops / troops or as a Medical Evacuation platform. The A400M is a very versatile aircraft as were the ageing aircraft it was designed to replace.
From there we were taken further into the building where an exhibition area has been set up to show the vast area that Airbus own and use at San Pablo (Sevilla airport). The area is within the main production hall of the A400M and you can clearly see (but not photograph) at least five A400M’s in production. The area also has details of the construction of the Airbus C295 although at this stage that production facility is off limits to visitors.
The A400M parts are manufactured in a number of countries in and around Europe, the U.K provides the wings which are built and then flown from the Airbus facility Filton (Bristol) to Sevilla by the Airbus Beluga. Other parts are flown in by the same type of aircraft from Poland, and Germany as well as Spain.
When the Beluga lands it is towed from the main ramp, to a special docking port on the eastern side of the production hangar. The part or parts are then unloaded from the aircraft and held in readiness for assembly. As each aircraft is assembled the next is progressively assembled and takes its place within the hangar.
After finally assembly the aircraft while still in primer will be ground and flight (air) tested to see if there are any ‘snags’ that need rectifying. Each aircraft will receive a ‘test serial / registration of A4Mxxx which is normally the last three digits of their MSN (Manufacturers Serial Number) for example A4M089 which is destined for the French AF as F-RBAO / 089. The French normally use the last three numbers of the construction number / MSN as the aircraft ‘serial’ and the radio call-sign is the F-RBAO which it would use while flying in any airspace.
The aircraft still in their various primer coloured parts, will then be towed to the ‘paint shop’ where they will be painted and marked in their respective operator’s colours and markings. They will all be a dark grey scheme as this seems to be the ‘norm’ these days.
On our visit we saw examples of the A400M Atlas that were destined for the French Air Force, Turkish Air Force and the German Air Force (Luftwaffe).
Alas all good things must come to an end and after our allotted ninety minutes the tour came to a conclusion; I think we had all learnt an awful lot about the design, engineering and production of the Airbus A400M Atlas.
Here are a couple of pictures of us on the gallery adjacent to the A400M production lines.
The company running the tours at Airbus Defence & Space are hopeful that in the future access will be granted to the former CASA facility where the C295’s are produced.
For those of you who may venture to Sevilla, there is an excellent vantage point to view the Airbus A400M’s and the C295’s that are either being flight tested or awaiting their turn in the paint shop. This is located near to the end of runway 27, it gives a great view across the ramp but be warned it is best to get there before the sun gets too hot as the heat haze plays havoc with trying to read off the serials / codes.
We were lucky in that there were over the three days we were in Sevilla at least twelve A400M’s seen, and half a dozen or more C295’s. Three of us stayed until Tuesday and were lucky enough to see and photograph from the outside of the airfield a C295 (MSN 163) take off from runway 09. We also saw the only Spanish Navy TAV-8B (Harrier) take off and then head due south towards Rota NAS (Naval Air Station).
On the North side there are a number of Wrecks and Relics that can be seen from the perimeter road, these include a Botswana Defence Force CN.295 OG-1 / Z10, an RF-4C Phantom II CR.12-51 coded 12-60 and a Gabonese AF C.235 as TR-KJE. For those that may need the former Portuguese Cessna 337 serial 13703 this now flies from the civil area as EC-GVX.
We can recommend the ibis budget aeropuerto about a 10 minute drive from the airport to stay in due to its convenient proximity to the airport and Airbus Defence & Space.
This picture (to the left) is taken from the vantage point mentioned above, it shows that around midday the heat haze and the effect it has on photography. In the picture it shows three A400M’s destined for the Luftwaffe and an Airbus demonstrator with A400M on the tail fin.
The picture was taken using a 300 mm lens. You can clearly see behind the aircraft a brown coloured tent like building, we were reliably informed that this is one of the paint shops. The frame of a ‘new’ paint shop can be seen to the right of the brown building.
Airbus Defence and Space also have buildings on the North side of the runway, these are primarily used for maintenance and or storage. However the Gabonese and Botswana Defence Force aircraft are in open storage and can clearly be seen from the perimeter road.
Our thanks go to Jesus for guiding us through the history of Airbus, for his guided tour of the facility and explaining the production of the A400M and of course we must not forget Zaira for allowing us the privilege of visiting Airbus Defence and Space, at San Pablo, Sevilla, España