Airbus Military has slipped its delivery schedule for Europe's first A400M transport, with the French air force now expected to receive aircraft MSN7 during the second quarter of 2013. It had been contractually due to hand over the aircraft by 31 March 2013.
Engine supplier Europrop International (EPI) has identified the cause of a problem with a TP400-D6 turboprop which halted a vital programme of function and reliability (F&R) testing with development aircraft MSN6 shortly before July's Farnborough air show. Intended to accumulate data through 300h of intensive flight operations, the process was halted after 160 aircraft flight hours, due to the detection of metallic chips in the oil system of one engines.
"EPI's investigations have demonstrated that the failure does not impact the engines' full capabilities and that the chip detection was provoked by a crack of a cover plate," says Airbus Military, describing the component as "a mechanical piece isolating elements within the propeller gear box."
"The MSN6 engines as well as all series production engines have been sent back to EPI for replacement of this cover plate," the airframer says. Once approved by the European Aviation Safety Agency and installed, this will enable it to resume the F&R process.
"We are working very hard to reduce the lead-time on these replacements to allow Airbus Military to resume the flight test [programme] as soon as possible and continue the series production as planned," says EPI president Simon Henley.
While the French air force's first aircraft will be delayed, its manufacturer says it remains on track to hand over a total of four A400Ms next year: three for France and a first example for Turkey. This will follow the type's expected receipt of full civil type certification and initial operating capability status in the first quarter of 2013.
Airbus Military says its fleet of "Grizzly" development aircraft has so far amassed more than 3,700h during almost 1,250 flights. This marks a roughly 300h increase since its most recent figures, released in mid-June.
The company has, meanwhile, yet to disclose when it expects to perform the first flight of aircraft MSN7 from Seville, Spain. A previously-planned target date of 23 August was dropped as a result of the TP400 engine issue.