Airbus Military postpones delivery of the first four A400Ms to H2 2013

Oct 1, 2012

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.