Airbus Military is set to push back development milestones on the A400M military transport after falling behind with certification because of defects on the turbo-propeller engines, people familiar with the plan said.
Airbus may announce an updated schedule as early as today, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the information isn’t yet public. Airbus is able to set a new timetable after resolving the issue that grounded the aircraft for two months, two of the people said.
Airbus Military halted the 300-hour certification trial involving one of five development aircraft after finding metal chips in an engine gearbox. Pushing back milestones further reduces the chance of meeting a contractually fixed deadline to deliver the first aircraft by the end of March.
The new schedule will reflect the prolonged delay in certification testing, the people said. France may still get its first airlifter before the contractual deadline passes at the end of March, they said.
The aircraft had completed about half of the hours of tests required. An official for Airbus Military, a subsidiary of European Aeronautic, Defence & Space Co. (EAD), had no immediate comment. Airbus has yet to meet with the European Aviation Safety Agency to resume certification test flights.
The aircraft maker pushed back plans last month for military certification of the airlifter, blaming engine reliability. Military certification trails civil approval by several weeks. France and Turkey are due to receive their first A400Ms next year.
The aircraft’s turbo-propeller engine, the world’s biggest of its kind, is built by Europrop, a group of companies including MTU Aero Engines (MTX), Rolls-Royce PLC (RR/) and Safran SA (SAF)’s Snecma division. The gearbox itself is made by Avio, in Italy.
The A400M is Europe’s largest defense program and about 5 billion euros ($6.2 billion) over budget at 25 billion euros. The requirement to hand over the aircraft before April was set at the time of the last major program review in 2010. Airbus Military is a subsidiary of Airbus and builds military transport as well as mid-air refueling aircraft.
Engine issues forced Airbus Military to pull the A400M from the flying display at this year’s Farnborough air show in July and last year’s Le Bourget air show.
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