First delivery of the A400M airlifter is on track for the end of the year, even though two new problems have been discovered in the aircraft’s troublesome engine gearbox, Airbus Military says.
The more serious of the new problems was a failure of a propeller gearbox on an A400M returning to Europe after its recent visit to Asia. Head of the A400M program Cedric Gautier has told media the problem appears no more critical than issues found with the propeller gearbox last year, “but obviously the fact it has been discovered now has more of an impact on the schedule.”
A second, less serious problem involved an engine on A400M MSN6 experiencing high level vibrations. This is thought to be due to improper balancing of the engine before its installation in the aircraft.
As a consequence, function and reliability testing of the A400M, required prior to issuing full civil EASA type certification for the aircraft, has been slightly delayed, but is still planned to be completed by mid year. Initial certification was awarded earlier this month.
Despite the new problems, Gautier said Airbus is confident it will be able to deliver the first production A400M, MSN7, to the French air force at the end of the year. This aircraft is currently in final assembly and is due to fly in late June or early July. Initial military certification for the aircraft, dubbed initial operating clearance, or IOC, is planned for August or September.
A further three A400Ms are planned to be delivered in 2013, two more for France and one for Turkey. Seven or eight will be delivered in 2014, while full rate production of 2.5 aircraft a month is planned for 2015.
Gautier says ramping up production of the A400M “is a challenge for the supply chain” as it is the same supply chain for Airbus’s commercial aircraft which is building up to meet higher production rates, particularly for the A320 Family, “so we are monitoring the supply chain closely.”
To date five A400M test aircraft have flown 3212 flight hours over 1094 flights. In all 174 are on order for the program’s European partner nations plus Malaysia.