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Ground For Reconciliation Sought in the A400M Programme

Cem Akalın – Editor

The A400M Programme as Europe’s biggest transport aircraft has been on the agenda of Turkey for a considerable time. Turkey was to be the second country to receive delivery of the Airbus after France; however, as a result of disagreements between Turkey and Airbus, delivery that was to take place last November has still not been realised. If we recall the Programme’s history and the process reached as of now, we note that with the participation of Germany, Belgium, France, the UK, Spain and Luxembourg a multi-national programme, Europe’s biggest New Generation Transport Aircraft, the A400M Programme was started with Turkey joining the Programme in 1998. The Programme Board Decision which oversees the relationship between participating nations in the Programme and which administers the management of the project was signed on 22 May 2003 by representatives of the participating nations. The A400M Contract, on the other hand, was signed between OCCAR on behalf of the participating nations and the main contractor AMSL (Airbus Military Consortium) on 27 May 2003 in Bonn. According to the text of the contract that was negotiated by the participants in the Programme, Turkey, based on the needs of the Air Force Command, would receive ten A400M Airbuses. In 2005, Malaysia was included in the Programme and the total aircraft orders reached 174. Roll-out took place in the summer of 2008 and the maiden flight of the Airbus took place in September 2009, one year after it was scheduled. However, during this period certain problems began to appear. Between 2009 and 2010 the six partner nations came together and revised the contract, set a new calendar and made certain changes in the A400M’s technical features. With these changes that helped the project stand on its feet again a momentum was attained and the first A400M was delivered to the French Air Force in September 2013. According to the Programme, Turkey was to receive the second delivery after France last November but because of technical requests and financial conditions, the two parties could not reach a full agreement and as a result the first Airbus that was to be delivered to the Turkish Air Force in still waiting at the same centre ready for delivery. Production for Turkey’s second new generation transport aircraft, the A400M is rapidly continuing at Airbus Group’s Military Aircraft Final Assembly Centre in Seville, Spain. In the meantime, four teams consisting of eight pilots have received pilot training in Seville. Additionally, 60 maintenance technicians and 8 loading personnel have completed their training in order to carry out maintenance services for the Airbus at the 12th Air Transport Main Base Command in Kayseri. Whereas delivery was expected as scheduled the process one way or other could not be finalised. Nothing was said regarding the delays that occurred for a long period. At the end of February, Airbus Group’s CEO Mr. Tom Enders while in Toulouse, France to announce the 2013 financial results, broke the silence on the process experienced and clarified the dispute that had taken place. Enders stated that, “As a result of the Turkish side not taking delivery of the aircraft, the whole industry will be negatively effected and added, “I hope that the talks will conclude soon and in a positive way; the situation is grave, the conditions put forth are not acceptable. If a result is not obtained soon this disagreement will affect the whole industry.” Emphasizing that he did not understand why Turkey was delaying taking delivery and that this uncertainty was closely affecting the other countries in the agreement, Tom Enders indicated that other countries were engaged to overcome this problem. The remarks made by the Airbus Group were answered by the Turkish side the following day. Answering questions from members of the press on this issue at the Turkey-France Defence and Industry Day, Undersecretary for Defence Industries Murad Bayar indicating that Turkey was one of the six partners in the A400M programme and continued by saying, “We have completed the acceptance tests regarding the Airbus’ delivery. Talks continue on the delivery. Of course there is an important matter here. Airbus must primarily focus on the terms and conditions of the contract. There can be no additional bargaining on this matter. Whatever the provisions of the contract says that is it. Even with this revised contract it must provide certain technical features and since in the acceptance tests they were not completely available we had to undertake these meetings. Of course there was a delay in the delivery calendar, because of this delay their will be certain delay compensations. But these are not very important problems. These issues can be resolved and they are being resolved. I hope that in the near future these meetings will be completed and hopefully we will take delivery of the Airbus in March.”

In the process that started with Tom Enders’ remarks, along with Undersecretary Murad Bayar statement at the Turkey-France Defence and Industry Day, Chairman of GIFAS Mr. Marwan Lahoud in responding to questions from the press made the following remarks, “we hope that both parties will be in full agreement. We believe that all of the issues will be resolved in March and that a complete understanding will take place” which gives the impression that after the short-term tension stemming from the protracted process a solution-oriented constructive process has taken its place. 

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