Further technical problems with
the military airlifter’s engine have led to a delay for the first delivery of
the A400M, initially scheduled by Airbus Military for early next year.
Nonetheless, the company has guaranteed delivery of the first four A400Ms to
their respective customers in 2013, with three aircraft going to France and one
to Turkey. The latter aircraft is already being assembled on the FAL in
Seville, with a considerable increase in activity in recent months"

 

The
first delivery under the A400M program will now have to wait a few months more
and will not take place until the second half of 2013. The European
manufacturer Airbus Military has announced a delay in the delivery schedule for
the first aircraft to the French Air Force due to further technical problems
emerging in recent weeks in relation to the engine for the new military
airlifter, which will require the company to per­form additional checks. Airbus
Military stated that these tests will take place during the latter part of this
year and the first quarter of 2013, which will delay delivery of the first and
second aircraft ordered by France. Nonethe­less, the company has assured that
there will be no further delays and the other deliveries will keep to the
schedule established. Two more aircraft will be delivered next year, with the
third being for Turkey and the fourth also for the French Air Force.

This
defect is the latest in a long line of problems which have beset the A400M’s
TP400 engines designed by the Europrop International (EPI) consortium,
accounting for much of the four–year delay the program has suffered. The
enormous turboprop engines and difficulties during the design and produc­tion
process are also behind much of the cost overrun of 6 billion euros which
Airbus Military and the partner nations have had to cover to salvage the
program.

The
reason for this new delay for the A400M is an anomaly detected in one of the
engines of the MSN6 prototype being used for flight tests, which prevented the
aircraft from participating in flight displays during the Farnborough
International Air Show last July.

The
defect emerged during the function and reliability tests necessary to obtain
full ITC certification from the European Aviation Safe­ty Agency (EASA), after
the aircraft obtained the Restricted Type Certificate (RTC) in April. The EASA
test program was suspended after metallic chips were repeatedly detected in the
oil of one of the engines.

Investigation by Europrop
International

Airbus
Military called on Europrop to launch an investigation, which determined that
the metallic chips stemmed from deteri­oration in one of the engine’s roller
bearings. According to the European manufacturer, this defect has no impact on
the engine ca­pacity and the engines of the MSN6 and all those manufactured on
the production line have been returned to Europrop for substitu­tion of the
defective part. The engine com­pany is also developing a new design for this
part which is currently undergoing certifica­tion tests.

Airbus
Military and EASA now need to agree on a new test program before resum­ing the
safety tests, although the manufac­turer has indicated that the entire military
operating clearance process will continue until the first quarter of 2013. As
at late June, the five A400M test aircraft have performed 1,180 flights,
logging a total of 3,535 flight test hours.

The first “Turkish”
aircraft in Seville

Despite
this new engine problem, series production of the A400M continues to progress
on the Final Assembly Line (FAL) at San Pablo, Seville, with a considerable
increase in the activity in recent months. Last July, work began at the
Andalusian site on the assembly of the fourth aircraft to be delivered to the
Turkish Air Force.

According
to Airbus Military, this third aircraft to be produced on the assembly line,
known as MSN9, began the process of integra­tion of the wings in May. The
integration of the nose and the fuselage began in late June. On 11 July the
last aircraft components arrived in Seville, the horizontal tailplane (HTP) and
the vertical tailplane (VTP). In recent weeks work began on their integration
with the rest of the components already on–site at San Pablo.

The
activity of the FAL will continue to gradually increase until reaching an
output rate of 2.5 aircraft per month until late 2015. The European
manufacturer has indicated that the Seville plant will have the capacity to
manufacture 33 aircraft per year working double shifts when it reaches peak
output in 2016. This will have an important knock-on effect for Andalusian
aerospace companies involved in the project.