Airbus under new pressure over A400M as deliveries slip

Fri Jun 10, 2016 6:53am EDT
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By Tim Hepher and Cyril Altmeyer

PARIS (Reuters) - Airbus Group (AIR.PA: Quote) faces renewed pressure from France and other European buyers to meet performance and delivery pledges for its A400M military transport plane but is struggling to meet the deadlines, people familiar with the matter said.

After partly successful efforts to overcome delays on Europe's largest defense project, the A400M has been plunged into uncertainty again, especially due to issues at an Italian subcontractor that have sparked potential compensation claims.

France has written to Airbus pressing it to say whether problems with Italian-built gearboxes and other threats to the A400M's military effectiveness will be resolved this year, but Airbus has declined to give that assurance, the people said.

With urgent needs in sub-Saharan Africa and Iraq, France has raised concerns about three main problems hampering the troop and heavy equipment carrier: gearbox flaws that require the planes to be checked every 20 flight hours, incomplete defensive systems and limits on certain types of parachute operation.

Asked if Airbus had been able to give clarity on resolving them, one person familiar with the matter said, "No, not right now, and especially not in the required timetable, which is by the end of this year".

The French government declined to comment.

Airbus said it did not comment on discussions with buyers.

The A400M has been ordered by seven members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization - Belgium, Britain, France, Germany, Luxembourg, Spain and Turkey - to give Europe an independent airlift capability.   Continued...

An Airbus A400M military aircraft is pictured at the ILA Berlin Air Show in Schoenefeld, south of Berlin, Germany, June 1, 2016.    REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch