Page last updated at 11:39 GMT, Friday, 11 December 2009

Airbus A400M makes maiden flight after delays

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The Airbus A400M takes to the skies in Spain on its maiden flight

The Airbus A400M military transport plane has finally taken to the skies in Spain for its first test flight.

The programme was launched by EADS six years ago with an order for 180 planes, but has been dogged by a series of delays and soaring costs.

The first plane was due to go into service this year, but it is running at least three years behind schedule.

The craft, which is designed to fly troops and equipment, will not take to the skies until 2012 at the earliest.

It has cost EADS $3.5bn in cost overruns, with the main hitch caused by the turbo-prop engine technology.

It could cost 25% more than originally planned to build.

A400M military plane on test flight

The delays are so severe that one customer, South Africa, got tired of waiting and cancelled its order for eight planes.

Officials and politicians applauded as the A400M left the runway in Seville at the start of its three-hour maiden flight.

The plane was designed to replace ageing military cargo carriers in several European air forces.

But amid growing concern, French and German officials have given the firm until the end of the year to prove that the project remains viable.

There is a split between those countries who want the aircraft built and in use quickly, such as the UK and France, and those who would prefer to proceed more slowly to spread the cost, such as Germany.



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