Germany is seeking compensation for various issues and delays with its troubled Airbus A400M airlifters. Berlin also wants the aircraft manufacturer to come up with a plan to solve the issues, and meanwhile does not rule out the purchase of another transport aircraft to ensure operational capability.
The A400M has been causing head aches in Berlin since delivery of the first aircraft in late 2014. Since, only a handful of aircraft found their way to Germany. Negative headlines did find their way to German media however, quoting various technical and operational difficulties. Most recently, a fault in the engines sparked another run of headlines criticizing the A400M
The German struggle is remarkable, as other operators of the type seem to be just fine with the A400M. France, the UK, Turkey and Malaysia operate the type as well, and the first aircraft for Spain now nears delivery.
Airbus nevertheless acknownledges issues with the A400M, promising to tackle those issues.
Where’s a gas station when you need it? That’s exactly what’s going in the minds of a Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF) KDC-10 crew as they look for the French C-135 Stratotanker that should be flying somewhere ahead of them. Seconds later, they find the French aircraft and move in closer. It’s an obvious metaphor for closing the infamous European tanker gap. The solution comes in two shapes: the Airbus A330 Multi Role Tanker Transport (MRTT) and the Airbus A400M.
Over the North Sea and to the crew of the KDC-10, that’s all distant music. As participants in the European Air Refuelling Training (EART) at Eindhoven airbase in the Netherlands, they have just finished air-to-air refuelling (AAR) twelve F-16s that take part in action packed exercise Frisian Flag 2016. Somewhere ahead and beneath them, the French KC-135 also just finished refuelling fighter jets, as did the German Airbus A310 that’s also nearby.
That’s three air-to-air refuellers in the same patch of sky, a sight not often seen as tanker aircraft are usually hard to find in Europe. The overall goal of EART is to improve flexability, efficiency and effectiveness of the combined tanker force of all zeven nations (the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Luxembourg, France, Spain and Italy) that handed command over their assets over to the European Air Transport Command (EATC). From Eindhoven airbase in the Netherlands, EATC commands 19 tanker aircraft of various types from all seven nations. That number equals 65 percent of all AAR platforms available in Europe.
Compared to the hundreds of air refuelling aircraft available to the US, the European numbers fall far short, hence the ‘tanker gap’. However, that gap may soon be a thing of the past, given the increasing number of Airbus A400M available to France and Germany, plus Spain and Belgium in the near future. By 2025, EATC should have 80 or so A400Ms at its disposal, with roughly 40 air refuelling kits available for those aircraft. The new Airbus aircraft has been involved in AAR tests.
Moreover, the Netherlands, Norway, Luxembourg and Poland are on course to jointly buy and operate the Airbus A330 Multi Role Tanker Transport (MRTT). During EART, it emerged that a Memorandum of Understanding is to be signed during the NATO summit in July in Warsaw, with a contract for three or four aircraft to be signed that same month during the Farnborough Airshow.
The shared pool should grow to eight Airbus A330 MRTTs eventually. Belgium, Germany and Spain have already expressed interest in particpating in the program as well.
“EATC has been asked to harmonize A400M and A330 MRTT operations in the future”, says Colonel Jurgen van der Biezen, a RNLAF-delegate to the joint European command in Eindhoven. “What we are looking for, is an air-to-air refuelling hub that is very similar in operation to the European Heavy Airlift Wing operating from Hungary.”
Introducing the A400M and A330 MRTT as tankers increases EATC’s refuelling fleet to 69 assets, equal to 82 percent of all similar capacity in Europe. It’s a signifant increase compared to today’s situation, an increase that enables European nations to support their own – plus each other’s – operations.
It’s an idea that gets the thumbs up from all within EATC, just like the thumbs up shown by the crew of a Dutch KDC-10 tanker over the North Sea. They successfully performed some formation flying with the other two tankers in the same patch of sky. After leaving the formation, they are on their own again. But with a different feeling this time. There are others out there.
A contract for four Airbus A330 Multi Role Tanker Transport (MRTT) aircraft shared by the Netherlands, Norway, Luxembourg and Poland is to be signed next July during the Farnborough Airshow. That’s the news that emerged on Wednesday 20 April during a media briefing at the European Air Transport Command (EATC) in Eindhoven, the Netherlands.
The aircraft will be based at Eindhoven and carry Dutch military registration numbers. A Memorandum of Understanding is to be signed first in Warzaw during a NATO summit.
The fleet should increase to eight aircraft at a later stage. EATC will be responsible for tasking the aircraft and optiziming their use. The aircraft should also operated from Forward Operating Bases in Norway and Poland.
More about European Air Transport Command and the current European Air-to-Air Refueling Training (EART) at Eindhoven airbase follows soon, here at Airheadsfly.com. See here for a report on last year’s EART.
A small step for aviation, a giant step for Airbus. The first aircraft of the European manufacturer produced in its US Manufacturering Facility in Mobile, Alabama, took to the skies for the first time on 21 March 2016. Taking of from the Mobile Aeroplex at 09:36 local time, the test flight lasted until landing 13:02 – with test pilots Mark McCullins and Bruce Macdonald on the controls
The flight of 3 hours and 26 minutes was meant to test systems, engines and structure performance, with 300 Airbus employees having a great day waving the aircraft goodbye.
The first “American” produced Airbus is an A321 for JetBlue, which the company will receive in just a few weeks from now. The single-aisle aircraft can bring passengers non-stop over a distance of 4,000 nautical miles (7,400 km).
JetBlue Airways has frequently ordered the A321 and its sisters A320 in several versions. It currently flies about 160 of them, with between 40 and 50 more coming, helping JetBlue to be the 5th largest airline of the United States.
IndiGo, India’s largest airline by passenger numbers, has taken delivery of its first A320neo. The delivery makes IndiGo the second A320neo operator worldwide following Lufthansa. So far, IndiGo is set to become the new airliner’s biggest customer.
“The A320neo aircraft will enable us to continue to offer affordable air transportation and a new flying experience for our customers. The fuel efficient aircraft will be part of a new phase of our growth and will enable us to offer more regional and international destinations at the best price,” said Aditya Ghosh, president of IndiGo.
IndiGo is one of Airbus’ biggest A320 family customers having ordered 530 aircraft in total. These include 430 A320neo from orders placed in 2015 (250 A320neo) and 2011 (180 A320neo). IndiGo also placed an order in 2005 for 100 previous version A320s which have all been delivered.