A400M final assembly to be delayed

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Airbus Military has confirmed an "approximate" three-month delay to the start of final assembly of the A400M transport until around late June, but says there will be "no impact" on deliveries of the aircraft, currently scheduled from October 2009, writes Julian Moxon.

Major subassemblies including the nose and main fuselage for the first complete A400M - a static test airframe - have been delivered to EADS Casa's Getafe site near Madrid since last month from sites across Europe, with the platform's wing box and outer wings also nearing delivery from Seville. However, an Airbus Military source says: "We decided to delay the formal start of final assembly to ensure optimum subassembly quality."

The delay was agreed internally following a review of the programme undertaken as a result of delays to the Airbus A380. "We wanted to look at potential risk areas to make sure there weren't any unexpected problems," says Airbus Military. The outcome was a decision to delay the formal start of final assembly at Seville from late March and the first flight of the Europrop International TP400-D6 powerplant aboard a modified Lockheed Martin C-130 Hercules. Being prepared by Marshall Aerospace of the UK, the aircraft will now take to the air in the second half of this year instead of the originally envisaged first half.

The TP400-D6, which ran to full power for the first time in February 2006, is the Western world's most powerful turboprop and has been identified by Airbus Military as one of the most challenging elements of the A400M programme. The company has so far secured orders to produce 180 A400Ms for seven European launch nations, plus a further 12 for export customers Malaysia and South Africa.