The development of a new transport plane for European military forces has been delayed further by problems with engine production at Europrop.
Airbus, a subsidiary of EADS, previously announced that its new aircraft would be ready for use in 2011, but EADS withdrew the date of its first flight this week. Rolls-Royce is the project manager of Europrop, the consortium responsible for producing engines for the A400M.
Tensions between EADS and Europrop have intensified after Airbus received four test engines that were not up to scratch.
EADS has released a statement about the delays:
“EADS cannot confirm any date for the expected first flight of the A400M, nor therefore give any agenda for the delivery schedule, as long as it has not agreed with the engine manufacturers a reliable schedule for the full delivery of the propulsion system.”
Europrop has acknowledged that they are having problems with the engines. Test flights were postponed because there were difficulties attaching the large TP400 engine to the wings of the test planes.
EADS is getting increasingly frustrated with Europrop. According to one source, “They keep telling people that they have delivered the first engines pretty much on time. But the engines are not up to production standard.
“Rolls are giving MTU a bashing. It has become impossible to give clarity on the A400M timetable because we simply have no clarity on the engines.”
The Ministry of Defence (MoD) are looking for alternative aircraft while they wait for A400M deliveries. They have started negotiations with UK company AirTanker, who are engineering an A330 jet for mid-air refuelling.
At one stage the MoD were considering replacing the A400M with Boeing aircraft, however that manufacturer has been facing its own supply chain crisis. Boeing altered their manufacturing strategy to allow suppliers to not only produce aircraft components but engineer them as well, in order for the project to cost less money and time overall. This has been unsuccessful however, with suppliers failing to deliver parts on time.
Strike action from Boeing workers has caused a fifth delay to the launch of its 787 Dreamliner aircraft, pushing the unveiling back to mid-2009. Machinists went on a 58-day strike against low pay and job cuts which ended in November.