Flight Demonstration by Luftwaffe’s Air Transport Wing 62 Showcases A400M.
It was a weekend of firsts for air show fans in Michigan this past Saturday and Sunday at Willow Run Airport for Thunder Over Michigan. For many air show fans, this may have been their first show since the global COVID-19 pandemic began and quarantines forced air show cancellations. For most air show fans, this was the first opportunity to see the U.S. Navy Blue Angels and the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds at one venue on the same day. But, for every air show fan in North America, this was the first time anyone would see a flight demonstration from a Luftwaffe Airbus Defense A400M Atlas.
The first-ever North American Airbus A400M Atlas demo took place over the April 1-2 weekend back in 2017 during the Melbourne Air and Space Show at Orlando Melbourne International Airport. But this demo at Thunder Over Michigan marked the first-ever German Air Force A400M flight display.
The German Air Force, or Luftwaffe, has been a regular and favored visitor to Thunder Over Michigan for years. Their transport units have established a rapport with the show organizers and with fans. Beginning with their visits in the twin-engine C-160 Transall starting years ago, German transport units have made regular appearances at the show.
This was likely a contributing factor to the decision to showcase the Luftwaffe’s new Airbus A400M Atlas tactical transport at Thunder Over Michigan this year.
The aircraft flown to Willow Run for the demo was in the United States at Nellis AFB for training and exercises prior to its arrival at Thunder Over Michigan. Crew members told TheAviationist.com that their flight schedule around the U.S. had been busy.
The unit operating the new-looking A400M at Willow Run for Thuner Over Michigan was Air Transport Wing 62, or “Lufttransportgeschwader 62”. The unit was formed in 1959 is based at Wunstorf Air Base in Lower-Saxony, Germany. The crew that flew the demo at Willow Run had deployed operationally with their aircraft all over the world, including countries on Africa on humanitarian aid missions.
Unlike the promotional flight demonstrations of the A400M Atlas flown by an Airbus company flight crew at the Paris Air Shows going back to 2014, the operational Luftwaffe restricts their A400M demos to performance parameters of less than 2G’s and less than 60-degrees of bank angle to conserve maintenance routines on the aircraft.
Even with some relatively pedestrian, and understandable, demonstration constraints, the German A400M crew still wowed the crowd at Thunder Over Michigan with her elegant 8-bladed Ratier-Figeac scimitar-shaped propellers and her four unique sounding Europrop TP400-D6 turboprop engines that produced an elegant, low-pitched whine.
Air Transport Wing 62 demo pilot at Thunder Over Michigan, Rene Hoor, told TheAviationist, “We’ll fly a little different track each day so photographers can get a good look”. Hoor went on to say, “She is an absolute dream to fly, nothing is better!”
The aircraft flown at Thunder Over Michigan was aircraft number 54+36, an airframe that first flew on May 22, 2020 and was delivered to the Luftwaffe on November 23, 2020 for its first acceptance flight. To all observers, it was an excellent debut aircraft for an airshow performance as the plane was exceptionally clean and well maintained, and its crack flight crew represented Air Transport Wing 62, the Luftwaffe, the German Federation and Airbus very well.
We were fortunate to see the A400M on static display at the Robins AFB Open House Airshow in September, 2019. Obviously it did not fly, but we were able to walk through and talk to the crews. What an beautiful and impressive aircraft!