Six years ago, the team from Airbus Military promoting the A400M came to the Paris Air Show full of confidence and good intentions. Germany had just confirmed its order for 60, finally launching the program after years of negotiations. Italy and Portugal dropped out, leaving a total requirement of 180 aircraft for six European countries (seven, if you count Luxembourg taking one aircraft).
EADS Airbus Military hopes that by the Paris Air Show next month launch customers Belgium, France, Germany, Luxembourg, Spain, Turkey and the UK will complete a review of their commitment to the A400M military transport.
Denel Aviation of South Africa has been certified by Lockheed Martin as a service center for the maintenance, repair and overhaul of C-130s. Although there are already eight of these facilities around the world, this is the first one in Africa. Denel says that there are 140 C-130s or L-100s (the commercial version) flying in Africa with 14 operators. Denel has been maintaining C-130s for the South African Air Force (SAAF) for many years.
EADS Airbus has proposed major revisions to its contract with seven European nations for the A400M airlifter, including a delay in the first deliveries until 2012. The company still has no idea when the first flight might take place, although the C-130 testbed for the A400M’s huge TP400 turboprop engines did finally get off the ground last month.
The Europrop TP400 engine that has been fitted to a C-130 testbed at Cambridge, UK, by Marshall Aerospace ran at full power for the first time last week. But unanticipated problems integrating the 11,000-shp powerplant on the C-130 have further delayed the A400M program.
Further delay to the Airbus A400M military transport now seems inevitable. “There’s an obvious risk of slippage,” Carlos Suarez, head of EADS Military Transport Aircraft (MTA), said here at Farnborough. The first A400M ceremonially rolled out from the brand-new final assembly line building at Seville, Spain, on June 26.
Eaton Corporation has signed two new multi-million dollar contracts to produce aircraft hydraulic and fuel systems.
Bombardier selected the Irvine, California-based company to supply the hydraulic system for the new Learjet 85 model, and Sikorsky selected Eaton to supply the hydraulic and fuel systems and cockpit components (control panels and dimming controllers) for the new CH-53K heavy-lift U.S. Marine Corps helicopter.
Powering the A400M was always going to be a challenge, requiring the development of the Western world’s biggest turboprop, the 11,000-shp TP400-D6, and integrating a host of highly complex systems and associated software. “The complexity of the integration task on the TP400 has been bigger than it was for the Airbus A380,” said Nick Durham, president of Europrop International (EPI).
Production of the Lockheed Martin C-130J Hercules has been assured for many years to come, thanks to the U.S. Air Force Special Operations Command (SOC). The unit has ordered a new version, designated HC/MC-130J, to replace its existing fleet of HC-130s and MC-130s used for combat search and rescue and special forces operations. Last week, Lockheed Martin received a contract for the first six aircraft, with another eight to follow soon.
The Airbus A400M military airlifter will be ceremonially rolled out on June 26, but the plan to make a first flight by “the end of the summer” seems overly optimistic, unless rapid progress can be made with the TP400 engine testbed, which has not yet flown. About 50 hours are scheduled for this modified C-130, carrying one of the four big turboprops that will power the A400M.