Euro Prop International (EPI), the engine consortium created to build the powerplant for the Airbus Military A400M Loadmaster military transport aircraft on order for the South African and eight other Air Forces, has admitted it is in part to blame for a three to five year delay with the programme.
EPI President Nick Durham told an industry briefing in Seville, Spain, this week that they had slipped up with the certification of the Fully Digital Engine Control (FADEC) software for the aircraft`s massive TP400-D6 turboprop engines.
Durham told an interested audience that the A400M will be used for military and humanitarian missions, meaning it must possess both military and civil airworthiness certification.
Airframe manufacturer Airbus is responsible for managing the certification of the airframe but the engine manufacturer – EPI – must do the same on the propulsion system.
He explained the engine must pass through a series of “gates” before the authorities will allow the aircraft to perform its first flight under Experimental Aircraft classification.
Furthermore, the European Airworthiness Safety Authority (EASA) – and all other civil certification bodies – require proof of the integrity of any design they are being asked to certificate.
This includes being able to demonstrate traceability and accessibility in the writing of the FADEC software codes.
EPI failed to build the required body of traceable and accessible evidence for the FADEC software.
According to Durham, at the time, EPI didn`t realise that not doing so would sink any attempt at EASA certification.
The result is that the EPI has had to rewrite all of the software codes and create the required traceable evidence – a step that has required it to triple its workforce to meet EASA requirements and catch up lost time.
Airbus Military confirmed at the same briefing that the prototype airframe was ready to fly last yea, but had to stay grounded in light of the FADEC certification issue.
Meanwhile, the engine has completed some 2600 hours of testing in a ground rig, and vibration, endurance and large bird ingestion tests have been successfully completed.
The engine has also logged 23 hours in flight and 60 running hours on a C-130K Hercules test-bed aircraft. As only one of the test-bed`s four engines is a TP400-D6, it is able to fly despite the FADEC software certification issue.
Ø EPI is a joint-venture based in München Germany consisting of France`s Snecma (32.2%), Britain`s Rolls-Royce (25%), MTU in Germany (22.2%), and Spain`s ITP (20.6%).