Douglas Barrie/TOULOUSE

THE FATE OF the European Future Large Aircraft (FLA) could be sealed later this month when a French Government committee submits its report on funding its air force's military air- transport requirement.

The committee was set up earlier this year in the wake of the French Government's decision not to provide development funding for the FLA.

In spite of the funding block, France, along with Germany, signed the European Staff Requirement for the FLA in August: the UK is also expected to sign the document shortly.

France's funding decision stalled the project at a political level, and Aerospatiale's proposal to divide development funding equally between industry and government was unacceptable to the defence ministry, which wanted development to be paid for by industry.

Sources close to the project suggest that the interest on the finance required by French industry doubled the projected cost of the aircraft for the French air force. Airbus Industrie is quoting a unit cost of $75 million, including amortising the development costs, on a 300-plus production run. Final assembly would be carried out at Toulouse.

What the committee will propose remains unclear, although Airbus Industrie, the FLA project manager, still believes that an eleventh-hour solution can be reached to rescue the programme.

Many of the industrial stumbling blocks on the programme have been resolved. British Aerospace and Daimler-Benz Aerospace had been vying for development of the wing, but Andy Lewis, FLA commercial director, now says that "-Germany will be involved in a joint design team with BAe". He adds that it will be "a composite hybrid wing". BAe had been advocating using conventional wing materials, with DASA pushing a composite approach.

Despite the uncertainty surrounding the future of the programme, Airbus has been pressing ahead with definition of the programme, which, according to Lewis, would see "-the first flight of the FLA 60 months after the launch of the programme".

The participating nations have also been supplied with a detailed document on the proposed 12-month work package "-leading up to the programme launch", according to Lewis.

An advanced turboprop engine would also be selected within the same timeframe by the proposed Airbus Military Company (AMC), which was due to have been unveiled at the Farnborough show, but the launch has been postponed.

AlliedSignal, BMW Rolls-Royce, and Snecma/MTU/Fiat are offering high-speed turboprop designs for the FLA.

Source: Flight International