Almost two years behind schedule, the military transport aircraft has finally completed its first test flight. Parent company EADS now says the delays will lead to further billions for the buyers to cover.
Delays and yet higher costs, but a successful test flight
The Airbus A400M took off for its maiden flight from an airfield in southern Spain on Friday, almost two years behind schedule.
On the day of the long-awaited test flight, however, came yet another setback, as parent company EADS announced that the delays would lead to further costs for the buyers, Germany, Spain, France, Britain, Turkey, Belgium, and Luxemburg.
"The countries must accept an increase in the price of the plane," Fabrice Bregier, chief operating officer of EADS told the French daily La Tribune.
He added that the increase wouldn't be "merely in the order of three percent, it would be significant."
French and German sources are speculating that the cost overrun could amount to over 7 billion euros.
Officials from the seven European NATO countries that commissioned the 20-billion-euro project in 2003 were expected to begin meetings on the project's future as soon as the A400M began its maiden flight.
Germany, which has ordered 60 of the planes - the largest order - has expressed reluctance over the potential contract changes.
Germany is looking to ditch its Transall C-160 military transport planes
However, German deputy defense minister Christian Schmidt said on Wednesday that Germany still needed all the planes it had ordered, adding that to date Berlin had not received any additional financial requests from EADS.
The project would give Europe its own heavyweight transporter fleet, but some customers have voiced unwillingness to face more delays in deliveries or additional costs.
South Africa, the only original non-European buyer, has already dropped its order of eight planes completely, and Britain has been considering switching its business to US manufacturers.
The turbo propeller aircraft is designed to carry up to 37 tons of troops and military equipment such as helicopters and armored vehicles to war zones such as Afghanistan or to support humanitarian missions.
Airbus was banking on delivering a total of 180 planes to the seven remaining buyer countries. EADS has said that it will take another three years before deliveries of the A400M can start, naming an amended target date of 2012. The original target date had been 2009.
Editor: Michael Lawton