French A400M lands in New Zealand for the first time

An Armeé de l’Air (AdlA, French Air Force) Airbus A400M Atlas landed in New Zealand for the first time whilst conducting a repatriation mission in support of the nation’s COVID-19 response efforts.

The aircraft – serial F-RBAP (c/n 095) – arrived at Auckland Airport in the morning of May 6. It collected 20 French Polynesian nationals who had been stranded in New Zealand as part of lockdown measures enforced to slow the spread of the virus. It departed the same day for the Pape’ete – the capital of French Polynesia – on the island of Tahiti.

French A400M [Armee de l'Air] #1
F-RBAP on the ground in Tahiti. Armee de l'Air

As part of the French military’s commitment to Operation Resilience, F-RBAP was deployed to Tahiti in late April, carrying medical supplies and cash to the island to assist in its COVID-19 fight. It is expected to remain in French Polynesia until later this month. The state has had 60 confirmed cases of the virus, 54 of which have recovered, and no deaths have been reported.

France has a total of 50 Airbus A400M Atlas aircraft on order, with 17 now in service and 33 remaining to be delivered. The air arm is expecting to have eight more aircraft delivered and operational by 2025.

The first A400Ms entered service with the air arm in August 2013 and the aircraft are operated by Escadron de Transport 1/61 (ET 1/61) ‘Touraine’.