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Mon, Mar 30, 2009

EADS Works To Calm Clamor Over Enders' A400M Comments

"Better An End With Horror Than Horror Without End"

The saga over Airbus Military's stillborn A400M military transport aircraft has grown to increasingly resemble a Margaret Mitchell tale... and on Sunday, Airbus CEO Tom Enders suggested he frankly doesn't give a [darn] anymore.

As ANN reported earlier this month, countries and corporations supporting the turboprop airlifter program have expressed serious doubts whether they would continue support for the oft-delayed cargo aircraft, particularly since EADS announced in January it would be another four years before the first planes were delivered to member nations in the Organisation Conjointe de Coopération en matière d'ARmement (OCCAR) agreement, ostensibly due to ongoing technical problems with the aircraft's engines.

The governments of Britain and Germany have threatened to pull further support for the embattled program. As EADS will miss a key contractual milestone with the A400M -- first flight of the aircraft by the end of this month -- customers have the option of killing their orders for the plane and withdrawing from the program.

In comments made during an interview Sunday with Germany's Der Spiegel, Enders all-but stated outright that parent company EADS could not build the transport plane under current contract terms.

He did not elaborate on whether that meant Airbus hoped to renegotiate its OCCAR contracts, or would consider pulling out of the program outright... but Reuters reports Enders did pointedly say he refused to make "pilgrimage to Berlin or Paris to plead for a continuation of the program under conditions that are not acceptable to us... Better an end with horror than horror without an end."

Incidentally, those comments to Der Speigel came as another German publication, Rheinische Post, reported Sunday that Enders was a top candidate to takeover as head of the German state railway system, Deutsche Bahn. The current head of that enterprise has offered to resign following a corporate scandal... which sounds very much like how Enders, once co-CEO of EADS with Louis Gallois, came to be head of Airbus.

On Monday, the German government has flatly denied Enders is a candidate for the rail job... while EADS issued a terse statement "clarifying" Enders' remarks.

Without referring to the Airbus chief by name, EADS "confirms that it remains fully committed to the construction of the A400M that will be the most complete high performance military plane for the coming decades"... but then conceded "the contract signed in 2003 does not provide the necessary conditions for the successful development of the programme, firstly because of an unrealistic timetable, and secondly because the commercial nature of the contract does not fit to the reality of a military programme containing high technological risks."

EADS called on OCCAR member nations to accept a three month moratorium period proposed by OCCAR, "to put [the A400M] back on tracks within conditions acceptable by all parties," instead of those nations exercising their right to pull out from the program completely.

FMI: www.eads.com, www.airbus.com

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