FARNBOROUGH: Fresh engine issue restricts A400M Atlas to static display

Farnborough
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For the second major European air show running, engine issues have relegated Airbus Military's A400M to making only a static display appearance at Farnborough.

The setback is a major frustration for the European manufacturer, which has brought its production-standard development aircraft MSN6 to the UK amid worries over its interrupted campaign of function and reliability testing.

MSN6 had completed around 160h of a planned 300h period of intensive testing in support of the A400M's civil-type certification activities when metal chips were detected inside one of its Europrop International TP400-D6 engines. This was replaced, but Airbus Military is now awaiting the results of an inspection to determine whether the problem was a one-off issue, or could affect other TP400s and potentially rule out the function and reliability work conducted so far.

The fresh delay has prompted Airbus Military to officially drop an earlier ambition to deliver the first of 174 production aircraft late this year. However, it notes that it will meet its contractual requirement to hand over the transport aircraft to the French air force by the end of March next year.

Meanwhile, the A400M was given a new name on the eve of the show, with programme nations Belgium, France, Germany, Luxembourg, Spain, Turkey, the UK and export buyer Malaysia having adopted "Atlas".

The new title was confirmed by Royal Air Force's chief of the air staff, Air Chief Marshal Stephen Dalton, during a rain-drenched ceremony at the Royal International Air Tattoo (RIAT) on 5 July. The Atlas will "give air forces the ability to project air power directly into the battlespace", he said.

Airbus Military managing director Domingo Ureña thanked his company's customers for "maintaining their faith - and funding - even through difficult times," referring to a more than three-year delay in the start of production deliveries.

Visitors to RIAT on 6 July got the only opportunity to see the Atlas in an air display this summer, with MSN6 having participated in a flypast involving the RAF's current air transport and tanker types. It will enter use with the service in 2014.

The A400M's participation at last year's Paris air show was also downgraded to a static appearance after a separate gearbox issue with the TP400.