Airbus Military expects to receive the A400M type certification in July with the start of the key functional reliability testing merely “a question of days,” company program chief Cedric Gautier says.
Despite delays in starting function and reliability testing because of problems with the TP400D engine, Airbus Military still believes it can deliver the first A400M airlifter to the French air force (MSN7) this year. The delivery process is to start in November, following a first flight nominally planned on August 23.
The delay in F&R testing was due to an engine change because of high vibration, which was linked to a problem in balancing the powerplant. Gautier sees that incident as a minor issue.
Of greater concern is a propeller gearbox failure that caused an engine shutdown on MSN4. The failure is different than one last year on the same component that set back flight testing. The root cause of the new event is still underway, but Gautier does not see the issue delaying first aircraft delivery.
The company has a contractual requirement to hand over the first aircraft before April 2013, but Gustavo Garcia Miranda, vice president for market development, says “we are pretty confident” delivery will take place this year.
That view is echoed by Antonio Rodriguez-Barberan, senior commercial vice president, who suggests it could be a “late, late” 2012 handover.
With testing now topping 3,200 flight hours and development of the baseline system due to wrap up in the coming months, the company also has begun ramping up export sales activity. As part of that effort, in the next 2-3 months the aircraft is due to visit Turkey, Spain, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Belgium and Algeria. Additional country visits in the second half of the year are expected.
The French air force will have two French crew (four pilots) trained, with the total grow to 12 by June 2013. Initial training is being done on the A400M, with crew also getting some A380 simulator time to better understand the Airbus cockpit philosophy.
MSN7 is now progressing through its build phase, with first flight planned in the third quarter. MSN8 also is at the Seville final assembly line with first flight planned in the fourth quarter..
Assembly of MSN9, the first aircraft for Turkey, is now starting with parts arriving for a formal start of that work in mid-June.