Germany’s air force said on Wednesday, November 13 it had refused delivery of two Airbus A400M transport planes over technical faults, saying bolts holding the propellers on some already operational aircraft were loose.
“The armed forces have decided not to accept two A400Ms due for delivery,” the Luftwaffe said in a statement, adding that “our soldiers’ safety in their daily use of the A400M aircraft is top priority for us.”
Routine checks on some of the Luftwaffe’s 31 aircraft have found “not all 24 nuts per propeller had the correct tightening torque,” the air force said.
“If these problems are not identified and corrected, they can cause severe structural damage to the propeller and shaft,” it added.
With each inspection taking around 30 man-hours, the discovery poses “significant challenges” to the 62nd Air Transport Squadron, which operates the A400M.
Additional checks are needed on the engines, along with the points where motors are attached to the wings, and for cracks in various parts of the aircraft.
Nevertheless, the Luftwaffe plans to keep flying its existing A400Ms when they are certified as safe.
“The model has more than proven itself in supplying deployment areas with personnel and equipment, in air-to-air refuelling, in transport home of soldiers needing medical treatment and in humanitarian aid missions,” notching up 4,000 flight hours with the air force, it said.
Airbus said it was aware of the technical problem which it had also communicated to its customers.
It insisted however that “this is not safety critical and our customers continue to accept and operate their aircraft”.
Earlier this year, pan-European aircraft maker Airbus renegotiated contract terms with the purchasing countries’ governments over the huge cost overruns and delays.
Repeated technical problems have dogged the A400M Atlas program, launched in 2003 to develop jointly a large turboprop transport aircraft for Belgium, France, Germany, Luxembourg, Spain, Turkey and the United Kingdom. Malaysia joined the program in 2005.
The wings are manufactured in the U.K., the fuselage in Germany, and the aircraft are assembled in Spain.
The A400M Atlas first flew in 2009 and the first production aircraft was delivered to the French air force in 2013.
In terms of size, it is positioned between the Lockheed’s C-130 Hercules and Boeing’s C-17 Globemaster – it can carry heavier loads than the C-130 and is able to use small and unprepared landing strips.
It has a maximum range of 4,800 nm (8900 km) and can carry up to 37 tons.
Some 81 A400Ms were in operation by July, according to AFP.
Airbus says 84 aircraft have been delivered out of a total of 174 ordered.
With reporting from AFP