2012-09-02 by Robbin Laird
When I attended the Airbus Media Event in May 2012, one briefing addressed the delivery schedule of the A400M.
An issue discussed was the need to deal with a gear box issue which emerged in the flight of the aircraft back from its Asian tour.
And this issue was then picked up some in the press to suggest a significant problem with the plane.
The rest of us took a calmer attitude. And as the senior Airbus Military official responded to a question from the press at the Media event:
“We do not know the cause of the problem, but the manufacturer of the gearbox is working the problem.”
A recent (August 31, 2012) press release by Airbus Military now provides insight into the problem and its impact on the delivery schedule.
Airbus Military has today reconfirmed that it will deliver the first four new generation A400M airlifters to customers in 2013 as planned, following the development of solutions to the recent engine issue, which prevented the A400M from participating in the Farnborough Air Show flying display.
As communicated, we recently had an engine issue on MSN6, the first production representative development aircraft. After receiving the Restricted Type Certificate (RTC) from the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) last April, representing a big milestone and achievement in the programme, MSN6 started performing the 300 hour Function and Reliability (F&R) testing required for the award of the full Type Certificate (TC). Tests had to be suspended after 160 hours of F&R flying because of the repeated detection of metallic chips in the oil system of one of the engines.
Airbus Military has supported the engine manufacturer Europrop International (EPI) in its investigations of the root cause and fixes. EPI’s investigations have demonstrated that the failure does not impact the engines’ full capabilities and that the chip detection was provoked by a crack of a cover plate, a mechanical piece isolating elements within the Propeller Gear Box (PGB). As a responsibility of EPI, they have already made a new design available, which is currently in the validation process.
Consequently, the MSN6 engines as well as all series production engines have been sent back to EPI for replacement of this cover plate.
We are working with EPI on a plan to minimize the lead-time of the cover plate replacement in order to resume the F&R flying as soon as possible. F&R activity will be able to restart when MSN6 is fitted with the modified engines and upon agreement with EASA of a new F&R plan.
As a consequence, the civil Type Certification and military Initial Operating Capability (IOC) will now move into the first quarter of next year, followed by first delivery to the French Air Force (MSN7) in the second quarter of 2013. Despite this we maintain the overall delivery plan of four aircraft in 2013. There is a slight impact on the delivery of the second French aircraft (MSN8) while MSN9 (the first Turkish aircraft) and MSN10 (the third for France) will remain on schedule with delivery before the end of 2013. Other deliveries in 2014 and beyond continue as planned.