“It’s clear for us that this is the year of the A400M. The aircraft is ready, and it will be the reference for the next 30 years.” These were the words of Airbus Military’s Domingo Ureña-Raso, speaking just prior to the Paris Air Show.
In preparation for the formal acceptance by the Armée de l’Air (AdA) of the first production A400M, Airbus Military has been working hard with its customers and suppliers to put in place a comprehensive support and training program to facilitate the A400M’s entry into service. That package is being forged largely through experience with the first customer, France, so that it can be used as a model for application to following customers.
With delivery of the first A400M airlifters nearing, Airbus Military has concluded an initial support deal with the French air force and a long-term training contract with the UK Royal Air Force (RAF). Meanwhile, Airbus Military is equipping its international training center in Seville with A400M computer-based trainers and a full-motion simulator.
Airbus Military still expects to deliver the first production A400M to the French Air Force in the second quarter. The milestone slipped by three months following a gearbox fault last summer, which interrupted function and reliability (F&R) flight-testing. To support its recent military intervention in Mali, France turned to the UK Royal Air Force C-17 fleet, which flew troops and equipment from Villacoublay to Bamako.
Paramount’s innovative AHRLAC (advanced high-performance reconnaissance light aircraft) program is advancing rapidly, with the first prototype now in the final stages of construction. The South African company intends to fly the first machine next year, but will not give a more exact schedule.
South Africa’s government-owned Denel industrial group dominated the news at last week’s African Aerospace and Defence 2012 show, held at Waterkloof AFB near Pretoria. Just before the show’s opening Denel Aerostructures signed a renegotiated agreement with Airbus Military covering manufacture of top shells and wing/fuselage fairings for the A400M airlifter.
Airbus Military says it hopes to resume, in November, the remaining 140 hours of function and reliability flight-testing that is required before its A400M airlifter can be granted a full type certificate. The flights with MSN6, the first production-representative aircraft, were suspended in July because of the repeated detection of metallic chips in the oil system of one of the TP400 engines.
Airbus will delay first flight and entry into service of the A350XWB by another three months to address a manufacturing glitch at its Broughton, UK, wing production facility, EADS executives revealed during today’s half-year earnings briefing. Already a year behind schedule, the A350-900 now won’t reach the market until at least the second half of 2014.
The problems with the A400M’s TP400-D6 turboprop engine that caused the airlifter to be scratched from this week’s Farnborough International flight demonstrations will slow civil certification and first delivery of the aircraft, but are not expected to delay its entry into service with the French air force next year. Production aircraft do not have the same issues.
Airbus Military will supply a Thales full-flight simulator (FFS) for the A400M Atlas airlifter to the UK Royal Air Force in spring 2014, ahead of the aircraft’s entry into RAF service in late 2014. A joint venture between Airbus Military and Thales will maintain the FFS, which will be located at RAF Brize Norton, where all 22 UK Atlas aircraft will be based.