Airbus A400M Airlifter Certification Test May Resume in October

Airbus Military may resume a pivotal test phase for the A400M troop transporter next month after making fixes to the engines that have halted progress.

The first gearbox to undergo modification was fitted with a new plate, reassembled, and tested over the weekend, and is now joining the engine again, said Nick Britton, a spokesman for engine consortium partner Rolls-Royce Holdings Plc.

All production turbo-propeller engines are due to be modified after metallic chips were found in a gearbox.

The interruption of the 300-hour function and reliability test forced Airbus Military last week to adjust plans for the more than 20 billion-euro ($25 billion) A400M, Europe’s largest defense program. Civil and military certification of the aircraft will be delayed until the first quarter of 2013, the unit of European Aeronautic, Defence & Space Co. said. The first aircraft delivery is now expected in the second quarter, missing an end-of-March contractual deadline.

Function and reliability tests should resume by the end of October, Dominique Fouda, spokesman for the European Aviation Safety Agency certification authority, said in an e-mail. The regulator is continuously in talks with Airbus, he said.

The plane’s engine, the biggest of its kind, is built by Europrop, a group of companies including MTU Aero Engines, Rolls-Royce and Safran SA’s Snecma division. The gearbox is made by Avio in Italy.

Airbus still plans to deliver four A400Ms to customers next year. France and Turkey will receive the airplanes. The third French plane and the only Turkish plane among the four aircraft will be delivered on time, the manufacturer said.

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 in France. The aircraft is due to participate in a flying display at next week’s air show in Berlin.

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