Airbus Military will have to rerun a pivotal test phase for the A400M troop transporter after fixing an engine fault that caused an earlier trial to be halted, an aircraft regulator said.
The so-called function and reliability test will restart once repairs are implemented, and the required 300 hours “will have to be redone,” the Cologne, Germany-based European Aviation Safety Agency said in a written response to questions.
Airbus interrupted the test in mid-2012 after 160 hours when metal chips were found in a gearbox. The suspension led the manufacturer to adjust the schedule of the 20 billion-euro ($25 billion) A400M. It delayed the plane’s civil and military certification until the first quarter of 2013 from this year and put off an end-of-March contractual deadline for the first customer delivery.
“The full 300 hours will have to be repeated for the engines, but not necessarily all the other systems,” Airbus Military said in a written response to questions. “We’re making good progress on the retrofit program,” including on the MSN6 production-representative aircraft being used for the test, the unit of Toulouse, France-based European Aeronautic, Defence & Space Co. said.
The gearbox on all production versions of the A400M’s turbo-propeller engine is being modified to fix a cover plate that separates sections of the mechanism. The engine, the biggest of its kind, is built by Europrop International, a group of companies including MTU Aero Engines Holding AG, Rolls-Royce Holdings Plc and Safran SA’s Snecma division. The gearbox is made by Avio SpA in Italy.
“The flight-test program has been continuing with the other aircraft, and we have now recorded 1,300 flights and 3,850 flight hours,” Airbus said. The airlifter is flying with a provisional certification granted in April.
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.