Airbus Military could soon be able to resume its all-important programme of function and reliability testing with the A400M, according to engine supplier Europrop International (EPI).
Production-standard development aircraft MSN6 was restricted to making an appearance in the static display at Farnborough this week after a recent problem with one of its TP400-D6 turboprop engines.
Speaking at the show, Europrop president Simon Henley revealed that diagnostic equipment had detected "the very early signs of bearing deterioration" in a gearbox after a recent flight by MSN6. Inspection work is ongoing, but "the fact that this was on a low-hours engine points me to think it's a one-off," he said. "Nothing is suggesting that we have any design changes to do."
A separate incident involving an in-flight shutdown of one engine in Oman earlier this year was traced to a vibration issue that has already been solved for production examples, Henley says.
While the pause in MSN6's test campaign will delay the programme by a few weeks, Henley says the gearbox issue "doesn't impact our ability to meet the entry into service with France", referring to a contractually agreed target by the end of March 2013.
With more 16,000 flight hours now amassed with TP400s, Henley says "the engine is delivering its specification". EPI has delivered five production engines so far, with another seven to be handed over this year. These will power the first three A400M Atlas transports, which are now in final assembly for France and Turkey.