A400M Flight Tests–and Negotiations–Continue
EADS announced “the conclusion” of talks to amend the Airbus A400M airlifter development and production contract with the seven European partner nations. But although a €2 billion increase has been confirmed, and liquidated damages have been waived, another €1.5 billion that EADS could receive from the nations in loans and guarantees, repayable as a levy on future exports of the aircraft, has not yet been finalized. Moreover, the schedule of future payments is less favorable than EADS had been hoping, conceded EADS CFO Hans-Peter Ring. As expected, Germany and the UK elected to take fewer aircraft as their contribution. Germany will receive 53 A400Ms instead of 60, and the UK 22 instead of 25. The original contract for 180 aircraft was worth €20 billion in 1998 prices.
Meanwhile, flight testing has accelerated after it was delayed by two unscheduled engine changes. The first three development aircraft have now logged 808 hours over 244 flights. The fourth test A400M is expected to fly by year-end. Paratroop trials have been conducted recently; among those bailing out of the aircraft was Airbus CEO Tom Enders, who is a reservist in the German army. Over the next few months, the aircraft’s rough-field performance will be tested. Cold weather trials and dry refueling contacts with a British VC-10 tanker are on the schedule.