Paris Air Show

Engine for A400M transport lags in tests

 - June 20, 2007, 9:22 AM

It seems there is no slack left in the Europrop TP400-D6 turboprop engine program for the Airbus A400M military transport. Here during a press briefing yesterday, Snecma engineering senior vice-president Jacques Renvier and Europrop International program and operations director Jacques Desclaux acknowledged the current 400 hours of ground tests are way behind the planned 1,000 or so hours but insisted this has not affected the aircraft program yet. ITP, MTU, Rolls-Royce and Snecma are Europrop’s stakeholders.

“We should reach 1,000 hours of tests by year end,” Desclaux said. Some 80 percent of dynamic behavior checks have been performed already. These include vibration checks, for instance. Engineers are now prepping an engine for a bird-ingestion trial at Techspace Aero’s test facility in Belgium.

Endurance tests have just started. They will include 25 six-hour cycles and a thousand 25-minute cycles. In addition, Europrop is planning a 150-hour test of continuous operations, which should take place within three months.

Later this month, the first flight-test engine is expected to be delivered to Marshall Aerospace in the UK for installation on a C-130 flying testbed. “Changes will then need to be made to the engine to allow ground and flight testing,” Desclaux said. First flight is planned for November. The C-130 is expected to fly 150 hours with the TP400–as a risk-mitigation campaign.

The delivery to Marshall, if it happens this month, will be more than seven months late. After a first delay, it was then pegged for April. But an oil contamination problem damaged some components and the engine had to be entirely stripped down, Renvier explained. The incident happened in Ludwigsfelde, Germany, on an MTU testbed. “This was an external factor–oil contamination with metal particles came from outside the engine,” he insisted. Nevertheless, all parts had to be checked and some bearings replaced.

In addition, although the engine’s design is not the cause, Airbus has requested Europrop to redesign some rotating parts. Engineers will make them more robust in case such an issue reoccurs. This work is conducted in parallel with the test campaign so it should not impact the program’s schedule.

Another anticipated milestone is the November delivery of the first A400M flight test engine. The new four-engine Airbus is pegged to fly in the first quarter of next year.