Airbus Military is increasingly confident about the technical progress of the A400M airlifter, but has refused to comment on the difficult, ongoing negotiations with the European launch nations over cost and timescale.
The flight-test program of the A400M’s Europrop TP400 turboprops, mounted on a Lockheed Martin C-130 testbed aircraft, has been completed at Marshall Aerospace, Cambridge, after 18 sorties, which amassed 54 flight hours. TP400 test engines have logged another 3,100 hours in ground runs, and the big turboprop is expected to gain its type certificate early next year, according to Rafael Tentor, head of the A400M program at Airbus Military. Development issues with the TP400’s Fadec system have been resolved, he said, and static tests have confirmed the airframe’s structural integrity. All four engines are now fitted to the first A400M, which is expected to start ground runs by the end of November and be flying by year-end, said Tentor. It will fly with the more mature Batch 3 software, rather than the Batch 1 that was originally planned.
Tentor denied that the A400M’s performance would not meet the specifications originally agreed, but he declined to comment on suggestions that the civil certification criteria might have to be relaxed. The flight-test program can be accelerated, he said, but the launch nations have yet to agree on a “new program baseline.” Regarding negotiations about the program, he said, “We need to find a financial way forward.”
Separately, Airbus Military and Thales have agreed to incrementally introduce the latter’s flight management system, Tentor said.