Airbus: A400M flight debut could slip until second half of 2009

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Airbus does not expect the first flight of the A400M transport before the second half of 2009, says executive vice-president programmes Tom Williams.

At an event at the Airbus UK plant in Filton on 24 November, Williams said the A400M programme's engine supplier, Europrop International, had missed "several dates" for delivery of a plan for completion of the TP400-D6 turboprop engine's full-authority engine control software, which has yet to gain European Aviation Safety Agency level design approval. He characterised the situation as a "moving feast", and commented that "the software development is taking longer than anticipated".

 
© Craig Hoyle/Flight International

The FADEC is being developed by MTU Aero Engines, a partner in the Europrop consortium alongside ITP, Rolls-Royce and Snecma.

Williams does not expect a resolution of the FADEC issues before the middle of 2009 "at the earliest", placing a first flight of the military transport in the second half of the year. However, he later described this as "a rough guess", adding that Airbus could not formulate a plan for the aircraft until it receives details of Europrop's plan.

Despite the programme's problems Williams is confident that the A400M will be an "excellent airplane" with "strong export potential". Noting the "complex" technology it deploys, he said that the aircraft stretched "the art of the possible" in aircraft design. "It will be worth waiting for," he predicted.

Williams also confirmed that Airbus is in discussion with the programme's partner governments toward its goal of a renegotiated A400M contract. At present, "the balance of risk is weighted to industry", he said.

For more A400M news and images, see Flight's aircraft profile