January 28, 2015 / 2:23 PM / 3 years ago

Airbus CEO promises shake-up after new A400M delays

PARIS (Reuters) - The head of Airbus Group (AIR.PA) has promised management and organizational changes at the European aerospace firm after new delays and quality problems with its A400M military transport plane.

People are silhouetted past a logo of the Airbus Group during the Airbus annual news conference in Colomiers, near Toulouse January 13, 2015. REUTERS/Regis Duvignau

Apologizing during a speech in London for the latest problems with Europe’s largest defense project, Chief Executive Tom Enders said: “We have not performed as we would have wished on the A400M, and I must apologize.”

“...There will be management and organizational consequences to the program, and we will learn our lessons from this,” he told UK politicians and military leaders.

A copy of Tuesday evening’s remarks was provided by Airbus, which declined further comment.

Airbus said in November there had been delays in adding advanced tactical features and refueling on certain aircraft, some of which would have to be retrofitted.

It did not rule out taking further charges on top of 4.2 billion euros of provisions over the life of the project, which received a 3.5-billion-euro, seven-nation bailout in 2010.

Enders said Airbus was working hard to deliver the A400M as rapidly as possible and would ensure Britain’s air force had seven aircraft in service by the end of 2015.

The largest customer, Germany - which took delivery in December of the first of 53 of the airlifters it has ordered - criticized Airbus last week over delays and quality problems on the A400M.

The project has undergone several transformations, switching from a separate Spanish-based military transport unit to come under the wing of first the France-based Airbus civil planemaking unit and now an enlarged defense division based in Germany.

In 2010, Enders sacked military transport head Carlos Suarez after a disagreement over how the project was being run.

Airbus last year brought back Rafael Tentor for a second stint in running the program. He reports to Domingo Urena-Raso, the head of Airbus’s recently reorganized military aircraft activities, part of the Airbus Defence & Space division which is also in the midst of restructuring.

The latest delays come against the backdrop of tensions between Airbus and Germany over sweeping defense cuts.

A total of 170 A400Ms have been ordered by seven partner nations, which also include Belgium, Britain, France, Luxembourg, Spain and Turkey.

Reporting by Tim Hepher, editing by John Stonestreet

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