UPDATE 1-Airbus expects first A400M flight in week of Dec 7

Fri Nov 27, 2009 10:15am EST

* Ground tests for first A400M satisfactory

* No exact date for flight yet

(Adds detail from Airbus Military letter)

PARIS, Nov 27 (Reuters) - Airbus Military unveiled the timing of the first flight of its long-delayed A400M military airlifter on Friday a week after successfully running the transporter's four engines for the first time.

The aircraft is expected to take to the air in the week beginning Dec. 7, the head of the Airbus unit, Domingo Urena, said in a letter dated Friday emailed to Reuters.

"The ground tests of the first A400M are progressing satisfactorily at our facility. This allows us to anticipate a first flight in the week 50, weather permitting," Urena said.

The 20 billion-euro ($29.9 billion) A400M programme is Europe's biggest ever defence contract, and the flight will be keenly awaited by the seven nations buying the plane: Belgium, Britain, France, Germany, Luxembourg, Spain and Turkey.

The A400M is already delayed by three to four years, and Airbus is pressing for concessions on the terms of the deal, saying it faces unaffordable losses in delivering the 180 aircraft ordered by the NATO countries.

Germany is leading pressure for the division of European aerospace and defence group EADS EAD.PA to stick to the terms.

Government officials are due to meet again next week to discuss the way ahead for the A400M. [ID:nGEE5AP1MR]

((For an analysis on the A400M, please double click on [ID:nGEE5AO0Y4])) ($1=.6699 Euro) (Reporting by James Regan, editing by Will Waterman) ((james.regan@thomsonreuters.com; +33 1 49 49 53 84; Reuters Messaging: james.regan.reuters.com@reuters.net))

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