* Airlifter on static not flying display at Farnborough
* Problems with maturity of engine development
* Echoes last-minute withdrawal from Paris display in 2011
By Cyril Altmeyer and Tim Hepher
PARIS, July 4 Airbus is pulling
Europe's A400M airlifter out of flying displays at next week's
Farnborough Airshow due to continued engine problems, forcing it
to sit out popular annual stunts for the second year running,
industry sources said.
The move repeats a decision at last year's equivalent event
outside Paris, but is not expected to disrupt plans to deliver
it to its first customer, France, around the end of the year.
The A400M cost 20 billion euros to develop and is designed
to add airlift capacity for seven European NATO nations --
Britain, Belgium, France, Germany, Luxembourg, Spain and Turkey.
It has suffered a series of teething problems that led to a
four-year delay and billions of euros in cost overruns, mainly
due to engine software delays and glitches with other systems.
A gearbox failure forced Airbus to scratch the A400M from
the flying display list on the eve of last year's Paris show.
Continued problems mean it will again be withdrawn from the
prestigious flight displays at next week's Farnborough Airshow
in the UK, but it will be flown in and parked on display for
visitors from potential importing countries and other delegates.
"Based on engine issues it has been decided not to
participate in the flight display but the aircraft will be on
static display," an industry source told Reuters.
The A400M has not been grounded and has been seen at several
events in the past year. But the gearbox problems have led to
restrictions that would rule out the kind of stunts popular at
Farnborough, such as the A400M's trademark steep, slanting turn.
Airbus last week announced the A400M and A380 --
respectively Europe's largest defence and commercial aviation
projects -- would be on the Farnborough flying display, which
unusually this year also features a 787 jetliner from Boeing.
Airbus had no immediate coment on any change in its air show
plans but stressed its delivery plans were on schedule.
"The engine maturity is still not where we want it to be,
but the schedule is not affected and we expect the first
delivery at the turn of the year," an Airbus spokesperson said.
Maturity refers to the speed at which problems common in
aircraft developments are ironed out in flight testing.
Eyes in the aircaft industry will be on the loss-making
aircraft's status as it awaits full certification around
mid-year, a step that must be completed before it can be
delivered and bring in further payments for Airbus parent EADS
"The problem with the gearbox on the A400M is not
completedly resolved," said a source with direct knowledge of
the project, adding, "It's pulling too hard".
The A400M is powered by the West's largest turboprop engines
and designed to perform multiple roles in remote or rugged
locations, fitting between the smaller Lockheed C-130
turboprop and larger jet-powered Boeing C-17.
Air chiefs from nations that launched the A400M are due to
adopt the airplane - nicknamed "Grizzly" by its pilots - by
renaming it "Atlas" at a ceremony at a military show on Friday.