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Edition 2: Airbus A400M #ZM403

Updated: Apr 27, 2022

The A400M is a Military transport aircraft designed and manufactured by Airbus. It was the result of a project which aimed to develop a replacement for the ageing C-130 Hercules and Transall C-160 aircraft. The A400 is larger and capable of carrying greater loads than the C-130 Hercules, while still being able to operate from the same unprepared airstrips.

In 2007, assembly of the very first A400M began in Spain. However It wasn’t until the end of 2009 when the A400M had its first flight. In 2013, the first A400M was delivered to the French Air Force. Today, just over 100 A400s have been delivered to eight customers, including Belgium, Germany, France, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Spain, Turkey and the United Kingdom. Kazakhstan, and Indonesia still await delivery of their own A400M Aircraft in the coming years.

The A400M serves various roles with its operators including tactical transport, air to air refueling, and medical evacuation. As such, the A400M has participated in a wide range of humanitarian and military operations around the world, most notably disaster relief after Hurricane Irma in 2017, and more recently the 2021 Kabul Airport Evacuations, where Belgium, Germany, France, Spain, Turkey and the United Kingdom deployed their A400s to assist in evacuation.

Our A400M keychains were crafted from the skin of ZM403. ZM403 was the third to be delivered to the Royal Air Force, and the twentieth A400M off of the production line. ZM403 operates with the No.24 Squadron of the Royal Air Force. No.24 Squadron is the Air Mobility Operational Conversion Unit, and is based at RAF Brize Norton. The squadron trains air crew and maintenance training on the C-130J, C-17 and A400 aircraft.

The panels which we obtained came from the underside of ZM403 after being written off due to screw holes not being to standard. After receiving the panels from the United Kingdom the fun (and at times challenging) process of learning how to work with composite skin began. Unlike past projects of ours, the A400M skin is made completely from composites as opposed to aluminum or other aerospace materials we've worked with in the past. As a result, majority of our production process needed to be refined or adjusted in order to successfully create these keychains.

From the moment our team received the panels, it became clear as to why pretty much all new aircraft, civilian or military are moving towards composite materials in the construction of wings and fuselage. They're almost weightless, and extremely strong.

Having such a limited amount of skin to work with, the Plane Chains team needed to be extremely careful, measuring, cutting and testing production techniques in order to maximize the total number of keychains we could create.

To claim your own piece of ZM403, visit our hangar (shop).


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