A400M gets initial certification, as engine problem strands MSN4

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Airbus Military says it remains on track to deliver its first A400M transport around the end of this year, despite engine problems that continue to hinder its flight test activities.

The manufacturer on 3 May announced its receipt of a restricted type certificate from the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA). This is expected to be followed around the middle of the year by full civil type certification - a milestone previously targeted for late 2011.

Airbus chief test pilot, military, Ed Strongman says the level of certification remains restricted for now because the "Grizzly" fleet has yet to start contributing to the 300h of "functioning and reliability" testing required to pass EASA standards.

The work was to have started recently, using production-standard aircraft MSN6, the company's last of five development examples, which made its first flight at the end of 2011. One of the transport's four Europrop International TP400-D6 engines was found to be producing vibration levels beyond acceptable, and is now in the process of being replaced.

"We need to understand why we have the high vibration on an engine that has gone through manufacturing and bench testing," Strongman says. Work to install an engine originally intended for use with production aircraft MSN7 is expected to take a total of 14 days.

Once ready, the aircraft will begin flying functioning and reliability sorties lasting between 6h and 10h each from Seville, Spain, and Toulouse, France. It will later accumulate additional hours by visiting customer nations and the Middle East, Airbus Military says.

 

© Airbus Military

Meanwhile, Strongman confirms that aircraft "Grizzly 4" (above) remains in Oman, after encountering an unexplained engine failure while descending into Muscat while returning from a debut tour of Asian countries including Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand late last month.

Now removed, the engine should arrive in Munich, Germany, on 9 May for detailed inspection, but Strongman says initial checks revealed "no clear indication as to why it failed".

Airbus Military's other four development aircraft are continuing to fly, with the type having made its first contact behind an Airbus Military A330 tanker early this month. In all, its fleet has now logged a combined 3,100 flight hours, with 600h more required before deliveries can commence.

"We still have margins for our delivery date," Strongman says.