Airbus spent years regretfully delaying the production of the A380 passenger plane, while promising to not make the same mistake twice. Alas, bad habits die hard: On Tuesday, the company announced that its military transporter would be facing indefinite production slowdowns.
Airbus has not exactly led a charmed existence in recent years, but the production of its military transporter A400M seems to be particularly cursed.
The machine has already fallen more than a year behind its original production schedule when the company announced on Tuesday that it would again be slowing production. "We decided a production slowdown some days ago to adapt to continuing uncertainties with the propulsion system," said a spokesman for EADS, Airbus' parent company.
Some say that Airbus set itself up for massive inefficiencies when it contracted a consortium of European companies -- including Rolls Royce, Snecma Moteurs, MTU Aero Engines and Industria de Turbo Proulsores -- to cooperatively develop the propulsion system.
The company emphasizes that the rest of the plane is in good working condition: the only reason for the production delay is because of the motors. "If the rate isn't slowed down, the problem is one will end up with lots of aircraft parked up that risk having to be taken back afterwards," the French newspaper quoted a source close to the programme as saying.
In any case, the plane's propulsion system is a not insignificant part of its mechanics -- comprising its engines, propellers and related electronics -- and the company is not able to schedule test flight until all of its problems have been worked out. The original test flight had been scheduled for last January.
In all, delays on the A400M have cost EADS an estimated €1.4 billion. But company spokesmen have become well-practiced at announcing delays. The company's jumbo passender plane A380 was also notorious for the massive delays it suffered. Customers of that plane were frustrated by several years of postponements.
There have been 200 orders in total for the A400M. The biggest purchaser is the German military, which placed 40 orders. The German government has already threatened to sue for damages if the planes are not delivered as promised by 2011.