It had to sit out the 2011 Paris and 2012 Farnborough airshows because of engine problems, but Airbus Military's A400M Atlas airlifter is scheduled to fly at ILA 2012. The planned flying display will be similar to the A400M's public debut at ILA in 2010, including a wingover to 110° bank.
Photos: Airbus Military
Flying at Berlin will be sign the program is getting back on track after the engine problem that halted certification flight-testing earlier this year. Metallic chips detected in the oil system of the one of MSN6's TP600-D6 engines forced Airbus Military to suspend function and reliability (F&R) testing after 160 of a planned 300 hours.
The chips were traced to a cracked cover plate isolating elements within the propeller gear box, and a redesigned part is undergoing validation. Engines from MSN6 have been sent back to manufacturer Europrop International for replacement of the cover plate and F&R testing will resume "as soon as possible", says Airbus Military.
Full civil type-certification and military initial operating capability (IOC) of the A400M has slipped into the first quarter of next year, and first delivery to the French air force (MSN7) into the second quarter. But Airbus Military's plan to deliver four aircraft in 2013 - three to France and one to Turkey - remains intact.
French pilots begin training this month, in another sign the program is moving forward. They will start with A380-based training for Airbus cockpit familiarization, but the first A400M equipment at the Seville International Training Center has just been qualified and acceptance testing of the first full-flight simulator will begin soon at manufacturer CAE.
Despite the latest delay, the program remains within the schedule finalized in April 2011, when the A400M contract was amended after massive cost overruns. But when compared with the original schedule agreed back in 2003, deliveries will be more than three years late.
More work lies ahead, as development will continue in parallel with production. It will require another six years to release all the features that will take the aircraft from initial to full operational capability. At IOC, the A400M will be a basic logistic transport aircraft, cleared to the full flight envelope and capable of being refueled in flight, but not of refueling others.
After entry into service, a series of five standard operational capability (SOC) releases will progressively add capabilities such as aerial delivery, autonomous ground operation, self-defense, soft-field operations, air-to-air refueling and other features. These upgrades are planned to begin with SOC1 in late 2013 and follow at roughly yearly intervals.