A400M fleet passes 2,000 test hours despite engine issue

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Airbus Military's fleet of A400M "Grizzly" development aircraft has flown through the 2,000 flight hour milestone, despite an issue which has affected the type's turboprop engines since shortly before the Paris air show.

The company said its current four flight-test aircraft had logged a combined 684 flights totalling just over 2,100h by 4 September. This means that roughly 180 flights and 500h have been added since mid-May, when one of aircraft MSN1's four Europrop International (EPI) TP400-D6 engines automatically shut down while airborne.

"EPI is continuing to work on a solution to the issues encountered," said Airbus Military, without providing new information about the nature of the fault.

Airbus Military said flight-test activities being conducted from Toulouse, France, and Seville, Spain, are "progressing steadily", and involve sorties flown with crews from the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA). Three of its aircraft are routinely available and are each flown up to twice per day, while a fourth is typically undergoing work to upgrade it to the latest equipment standard.

 
© Airbus Military

"Currently the focus is on the completion of the handling qualities, performance and systems certification tests," it said. The company hopes to secure civil type certification from EASA before the end of this year.

The programme's fifth and final development aircraft, MSN6, is expected to join the flight-test campaign in late 2011. Currently in assembly, the production-standard aircraft had been scheduled to make its flight debut during October. However, Airbus Military said it has recently decided to first use the asset in support of evacuation testing in advance of it securing certification and meeting initial operating clearance requirements.

"As a result, the first flight will take place slightly later than originally planned, but is still expected by the end of the year," it said. Separately, Europe's OCCAR defence procurement agency has identified a possible target date of 22 December for the milestone.

Test activity per aircraft (Source: Airbus Military):

MSN1 - 239 flights / 777h

MSN2 - 197 flights / 612h

MSN3 - 197 flights / 577h

MSN4 - 51 flights / 142h

Total - 684 flights / 2,108h