Airbus is pulling Europe’s A400M airlifter out of flying displays at next week’s Farnborough Airshow due to continued engine problems, forcing it to sit out popular annual stunts for the second year running.
The move repeats a decision at last year’s equivalent event outside Paris, but is not expected to disrupt plans to deliver it to its first customer, France, around the end of the year, Reuters reports.
A gearbox failure forced Airbus to scratch the A400M from the flying display list on the eve of last year’s Paris airshow.
Continued problems mean it will again be withdrawn from the prestigious flight displays at next week’s Farnborough Airshow in the UK, but it will be flown in and parked on display for visitors from potential importing countries and other delegates.
“The decision to have the aircraft on static display only is based on engine issues that happened last week which need further investigation,” Airbus Military said in a statement today.
The company said that, “based on the current flight test schedule and planning for the coming days, Airbus Military has decided to bring the first production representative example of the A400M (MSN6) to the Farnborough Air show. The aircraft will be on static display, allowing a maximum number of current and potential customers and other visitors to view the production standard cargo-hold and appreciate the real dimensions of the aircraft without flight-test instrumentation for the first time.”
The A400M has not been grounded and has been seen at several events in the past year. But the gearbox problems have led to restrictions that would rule out the kind of stunts popular at Farnborough, such as the A400M’s trademark steep, slanting turn.
Airbus last week announced the A400M and A380 – respectively Europe’s largest defence and commercial aviation projects – would be on the Farnborough flying display, which unusually this year also features a 787 jetliner from Boeing.
Eyes in the aircaft industry will be on the loss-making aircraft’s status as it awaits full certification around mid-year, a step that must be completed before it can be delivered and bring in further payments for Airbus parent EADS .
Airbus Military emphasised the progression of ongoing flight testing, which it said was continuing at an ‘aggressive’ pace “with successful achievements in the field of military capabilities.” The company added that, “it is beginning to show the level of technical maturity required at first delivery, and we are pleased with the overall performance of the aircraft. Despite some engine maturity challenges, we are confident that we will find the right solutions and provide our customers with an aircraft that fully meets or exceeds the expectations.”
At the end of June, the A400M had completed 1 180 flights and 3 535 flight hours in flight-test since its first flight in December 2009. In recent months, flight testing has included air-to-air refuelling as a receiver and a tanker, loading of helicopters on board and testing of the defensive aid systems.
“The industrial status is on track with the first three customer aircraft now in the final assembly process in Seville and a further six aircraft in various stages of production with long-lead items launched up to MSN19,” Airbus Military said. “Equally the In-Service Support (ISS) activities are progressing on track, with ongoing discussions with our customers on the specific ISS packages in addition to the commonly agreed launch service package.”
The A400M cost 20 billion euros to develop and is designed to add airlift capacity for seven European NATO nations — Britain, Belgium, France, Germany, Luxembourg, Spain and Turkey.
It has suffered a series of teething problems that led to a four-year delay and billions of euros in cost overruns, mainly due to engine software delays and glitches with other systems.
The A400M is powered by the West’s largest turboprop engines and designed to perform multiple roles in remote or rugged locations, fitting between the smaller Lockheed C-130 turboprop and larger jet-powered Boeing C-17.
Air chiefs from nations that launched the A400M are due to adopt the airplane – nicknamed “Grizzly” by its pilots – by renaming it “Atlas” at a ceremony at a military show on Friday.