PARIS/BERLIN Feb 13 An oil leak that grounded
an Airbus A400M military plane with a German government
minister on board does not point to a fundamental new problem
with the West's largest turboprop engines, three sources close
to the matter said.
Last week's breakdown was on a trip that was meant to
showcase the aircraft's capabilities as Airbus seeks to win back
confidence in the troubled A400M project from its largest
German military officials initially said the leak appeared
to be linked to the hydraulic system used to adjust the turbine
blades in one of the four powerful A400M engines.
However, two of the three sources said the leak had been
found between the propellors and the nacelle, or engine housing,
which are part of the power system but not components of the
"It doesn't look like it came from the core of the engine,"
the third source said.
The German air force declined to comment.
If confirmed, the findings are likely to ease concerns over
fresh delays in the 20 billion euro ($21.2 billion) project,
which is already years behind schedule and heavily over budget.
However, the breakdown represents a public relations blow
for Airbus, which is still grappling with previous problems that
led to writeoffs amounting to more than 5 billion euros.
Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen was forced to switch
planes after visiting troops in Lithuania in what the ministry
described as a "very aggravating" incident.
Problems with the engines, including software and an
Italian-built gear component, contributed to years of delays and
cost overruns in Europe's largest multinational defence project.
A German military source familiar with the programme said
last week that the latest incident appeared to involve a routine
and relatively minor technical problem.
The propellors are made by France's Ratier-Figeac on behalf
of Airbus, which supplies the nacelle.
The main part of the engine is supplied by a four-nation
consortium led by Britain's Rolls-Royce and France's
Airbus reiterated that it is doing what it can to support
A spokesman declined to comment in detail on the incident,
saying the investigation is being handled by the German air
force. The aircraft was flown to a German air base late last
($1 = 0.9435 euros)
(Reporting by Tim Hepher and Andrea Shalal; Editing by David