Airbus Military unveiled the timing of the first flight of its long-delayed A400M military airlifter a week after successfully running the transporter’s four engines for the first time.
The aircraft is expected to take to the air in the week beginning Dec. 7, the head of the Airbus unit, Domingo Urena, said in a letter dated last Friday emailed to Reuters.
"The ground tests of the first A400M are progressing satisfactorily at our facility. This allows us to anticipate a first flight in the week 50, weather permitting," Urena said.
The €20 billion-euro A400M programme is Europe’s biggest ever defence contract, and the flight will be keenly awaited by the seven nations buying the plane: Belgium, Britain, France, Germany, Luxembourg, Spain and Turkey.
The A400M is already delayed by three to four years, and Airbus is pressing for concessions on the terms of the deal, saying it faces unaffordable losses in delivering the 180 aircraft ordered by the NATO countries.
Germany is leading pressure for the division of European aerospace and defence group EADS to stick to the terms.
Government officials are due to meet again next week to discuss the way ahead for the A400M.
A400M to cost customers extra €7.4 bln
The Airbus A400M will cost the seven countries buying the military transport an additional €7.4 billion for the 180 aircraft on order, Les Echos newspaper reported in a preview of the front page of today’s edition.
This would be an increase of 40 percent, the paper said.
Airbus Military, which makes the plane, referred calls to parent company EADS, where no one was immediately reached for comment.
The €20 billion A400M programme is Europe’s biggest ever defence contract, and the seven nations buying the plane include Belgium, Britain, France, Germany, Luxembourg, Spain and Turkey.