The A400M military transport plane that has been causing Airbus and European defence ministers budgetary and logistical headaches has finally taken to the skies for its maiden flight.

The hulking, gray airlifter has taken off from the Spanish city of Seville. Meanwhile, defence officials are to meet on the ground to decide how to continue with the much delayed and over-budget project.

The A400M programme was launched six years ago with an order for 180 planes from seven governments - Belgium, Britain, France, Germany, Luxembourg, Spain and Turkey. The project is running at least three years late.

A six-man crew comprising two test pilots and four engineers was taking part in Friday’s maiden flight.