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First flight target for A400M's TP400 engine slips to fourth quarter 2007

The target date for the first flight of the Europrop International (EPI) TP400-D6 turboprop has slipped into the fourth quarter of this year after the engine consortium was forced to redesign some mechanical components that encountered higher than expected loads during bench testing.

A development engine suffered oil contamination during ground testing earlier this year, but the source of the problem could not be traced, it emerged at the Paris air show this week.

Meanwhile, moving to limit the impact of propulsion system delays to the A400M project, Airbus Military has revealed plans to add a sixth aircraft to compress its previously planned 18-month flight-test campaign for the transport.

EPI expects to hand over the flight-test engine "before the end of June", says TP400 programme and operations director Jacques Desclaux. "The forecast is to have the first flight between October and December, depending on the integration issues."

The flight trials are to be performed by Cambridge, UK-based Marshall Aerospace using a modified Lockheed Martin C-130. Under the original schedule EPI had been due to deliver the first flightworthy TP400 in November 2006.

"Today there is enough of a buffer before impacting the [A400M] first flight," says Desclaux.

Six TP400s have to date accumulated 400h during ground testing, and EPI is about to begin the 150h endurance trial, which involves simulating 25, 6h flight cycles.

"We have completed around 80% of the mechanical verification we have to do," says Desclaux.

Assembly of the first TP400 for a flight-test A400M began last week at MTU Aero Engines' Ludwigsfelde factory in Germany.

Airbus Military says it "remains very confident of achieving first flight and first delivery of the A400M on schedule", referring to goals of the first quarter of next year and late 2009 respectively. "The addition of the sixth flight-test aircraft will bring flexibility to the programme."

Final assembly activities at EADS Casa's Seville site in southern Spain are expected to start later this year, with the work having been postponed from late March as a risk-reduction measure. "We've learnt from the A380 [airliner] programme that you shouldn't start final assembly when there are gaps in the programme," says an Airbus Military source.


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