Posted by John McHaleROME, Italy, 6 April 2011. Alenia Aermacchi pilots completed the first flight of M-346 aircraft for the Italian air force -- dubbed T-346A. The flight lasted 40 minutes and the T-346A reached a maximum altitude of 15,000 feet, covering the planned flight envelope in terms of speed, angle of attack, and load factor. The flight also included maneuvers to assess aeromechanical handling of the aircraft and aircraft systems functionality."Once again, the aircraft demonstrated its excellent characteristics in terms of handling, energy, and man-machine interface, all crucial points in training future pilots to fly new generation combat aircraft," says Quirino Bucci, chief test pilot. "The first flight of the T-346A, soon to enter service with our country's air force, is an important milestone for the M-346 program, a milestone reached through the dedication of the entire work force of the Venegono plant," says Giuseppe Giordo, chief executive officer of Alenia Aeronautica and responsible for the Aeronautics Sector of Finmeccanica Group.The ITAF T-346A is the first M-346 series production aircraft completed. The Alenia Aermacchi site in Venegono, Italy now operates an automated production line capable of delivering as many as 48 aircraft per year with competitive cost and high quality in order to meet the highest program requirements. The remaining aircraft for the Italian Air Force are already being built on this new assembly line, and production of the 12 aircraft ordered by the Singapore Air Force is also underway. Alenia North America is preparing to bid on the U.S. Air Force's T-X Trainer Replacement Program with the T-100, the U.S. variant of the M-346. The aircraft meets the latest training requirement of the new generation aircraft such as the F-22, F-35, and the Eurofighter.