An Airbus A400M takes off at the Toulouse-Blagnac airport in Blagnac, France last October. / Pascal Pavani / AFP via Getty Images
HAMBURG, Germany — Airbus expects to reach an agreement on an interim service contract for the A400M airlifter in a matter of weeks, Fabrice Bregier, chief operating officer of the European aircraft maker, said Jan. 17.
Talks with France for a maintenance contract have dragged on for months. In October, French procurement chief Laurent Collet-Billon to threatened to withhold payment if a service support deal was not ready when the first transport aircraft is delivered to the air force.
“We hope to finalize in the coming weeks,” Bregier said at a joint Airbus-EADS press conference here.
Bregier said the initial deal would be an interim agreement to be extended to the full fleet for Britain and France, the first countries to take delivery of the four-engine A400M aircraft.
The talks have been complicated by difficulties between prime contractor Airbus and the companies in the Europrop International (EPI) engine consortium, French Defense Minister Gérard Longuet said Jan. 9.
“On engine maintenance, everyone is looking at everyone else and wondering what risk he can reasonably take on,” Longuet told the French aerospace press club.
“What we want is a global service agreement with someone who signs and assumes an undertaking,” Longuet said. “On the other side, companies are looking at each other and saying this is going to cost a fortune in lawyers and experts.”
Airbus Military, a subsidiary of Airbus and EADS, makes the A400M. EPI builds the plane’s TP400-D6 engine. The EPI consortium includes ITP of Spain, MTU of Germany, Rolls-Royce of Britain, and Snecma of France’s Safran group.
EADS CEO Louis Gallois said earlier the A380 superjumbo airliner and A400M programs “are now on track.”
Those programs would help boost EADS’ profitability in 2012. Higher aircraft deliveries, improving prices, cost-savings programs and ambitious profitability targets at the division level would also help, he said.
Under a revised scheduled, France is due to take delivery of the first A400M in 2013, with Britain to follow in 2014. Airbus Military hopes to ship the French aircraft by the end of this year, ahead of the contracted date.
France announced at the Paris Air Show in June a memorandum of understanding to cover A400M maintenance, with common support to be shared by Britain and France. Germany has made its own national arrangements for service.