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Airbus works to get troubled A400M back on track

Airbus is heralding mixed fortunes for its troubled A400M military transport programme, with expected deliveries in 2015 of 16 units – double 2014’s total – coming on the back of a €551 million ($620 million) fourth-quarter charge for delays and action needed­ to ramp-up production.

Highlights of the 2015 delivery campaign should include five aircraft for the UK Royal Air Force, which currently has two – including one delivered in 2014. But original expectations for the total transfer of more than 20 units are clearly out of reach.

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Speaking in Munich to detail an overall strong group financial and operational performance for 2014, Airbus chief executive Tom Enders blamed the A400M’s woes on incomplete sub-assemblies arriving at the Seville final assembly line. Fuselages from Bremen are a particular problem, he says, but wings from Filton and inputs from other plants are also arriving in Seville needing further work.

This “travelled work” means personnel from the sub-facilities have to work temporarily in Seville, which is “very inefficient”.

However, says Enders, the change of programme management made last month is encouraging. Fernando Alonso, who replaced Domingo Ureña-Raso as head of military aircraft within the Airbus Defence & Space division, is "a great manager coming from the commercial side", he says, while new head of operations Pilar Albiac-Murillo comes from the automotive industry and knows how to fix a final assembly operation.

Of Airbus Defence & Space head Bernhard Gerwert, Enders adds:"I trust that he has taken the right choices."

Further details of the financial implications of the A400M programme remediation requirements are expected to be set out in the coming weeks.

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