Douglas Barrie/LONDON Julian Moxon/PARIS

European Future Large Aircraft (FLA) partners are to meet early next month to discuss the outcome of a critical study into considering the Antonov An-70 as an FLA candidate.

The study, which is widely expected to reject the An-70 as a serious contender, is almost certain to plunge the FLA into further turmoil, say programme sources. Germany, an FLA partner, is running its own study into the An-70, but this will not be completed until the first or second quarter of 1999.

Toulouse sources claim that the An-70 concept is "more or less dead", a sentiment echoed by other project sources, who say that the Ukrainian aircraft "-fails to meet the European Staff Requirement for the FLA".

Germany, with the largest paper requirement - of 75 aircraft - for the FLA, is keen to forge a collaborative programme built around the An-70 involving both Ukraine and Russia. Bonn is also refusing to provide funding for the pre-launch activities (PLA) for the FLA to Daimler Benz Aerospace, despite senior management appeals from the company.

The PLA element of the FLA has been repeatedly delayed, increasingly threatening the FLA's ability to meet the Royal Air Force' s preferred in-service date to replace the second tranche of its Lockheed Martin C-130H Hercules.

Programme sources express considerable concern over the impact of Bonn adhering to its position on the An-70. While partner nations plan to develop the FLA under the auspices of Airbus Industrie's Airbus Military Company (AMC). "Airbus is pretty dubious about the An-70. It represents an enormous area of risk," says a project source.

Airbus Industrie refuses to discuss the FLA or the An-70, saying only that the tactical military transport programme is not yet within its remit.

Should the AMC partnership collapse, sources indicate that Daimler-Benz Aerospace, Alenia and Aerospatiale may form an industrial team with Antonov to pursue a joint programme. This could fall foul of the governments, which have funded initial activity on the FLA, and which will eventually have to come up with the money for full industrialisation and purchase of the aircraft.

Source: Flight International