Airbus Loses More Money on A400M Airlifter

 - February 15, 2018, 6:25 AM
The initial optimism surrounding the A400M (seen here on rollout) has gone, but “the worst is now behind us” said Airbus CEO Tom Enders. (Photo: Airbus D&S)

Airbus declared another €1.3 billion ($1.6 billion) loss on the A400M airlifter for the 2017 fiscal year, the latest of many annual write-downs on the troubled project. But speaking at the Airbus annual results press conference on February 15, Airbus chief executive officer Tom Enders declared that “the worst is clearly behind us.” Talks that began last March with the procurement agency OCCAR to renegotiate the A400M production contract have not yet been completed. But Enders described a preliminary agreement reached with OCCAR on February 5 as “a breakthrough.”

The key consensus reached so far is a slowdown in production. This will drop from 19 of the aircraft in 2017 to 15 this year and to 11 in subsequent years, Airbus chief financial officer Harald Wilhelm told the press conference. The reduction helps some of the six European partner nations, such as Germany, that have been considering a cutback in order numbers.

But Airbus and OCCAR have evidently not yet agreed on a schedule for delivering certain A400M capability shortfalls, such as load-dropping, helicopter refueling, and integration of defensive subsystems. However, “a capability roadmap” has been defined, Wilhelm said. 

In a statement before the press conference, Enders noted that since its beginnings in 2003, the A400M program “had suffered not only from a number of operational issues but, more importantly, under a flawed contractual set-up and insufficient budget.” He thanked the partner nations for their support in the complex negotiations. “We have a good chance to stop or at least reduce the bleeding now and deliver the operational capabilities that our customers need,” he continued.