Friday, January 29, 2010

I dare you to cross this line! No, this one! Wait a minute. I double dare you to cross THIS line! I double secret on pain of instant death dare you !

As is true with all good soap operas, the decedent suddenly emerges anew, who, having been written off for dead was really spirited away and confined on a Greek isle with no telephones, or was knocked unconscious and woke up in a dumpster in Spokane six months later trying to figure out how he got there.

That's the case with the A400M GretaGarboliner.

After the last 'final round of talks' in which the Germans decided they weren't going to pay anything more than 2 billion euros more than they expected to pay for the A400M airlifter comes word to us that there will indeed be another 'super double secret round of talks' on February 4 in which Airbus will attempt yet again to wheedle another 5 billion euros out of the buyers.

The last round of talks, which was the third and final round of talks, ended on the 26th with no clear winner and no indication that the people who bought this thing are going to pony up more than they already offered to.

What's all the palaver about, you ask? Simple.

The A400M, as we have opined, is something of a super sized Herk with a filet mignon price tag. In addition to it being a clean sheet of paper design, the engine is also a clean sheet of paper design, and it's in a class where it's unlikely to ever find a home on a civilian airframe, unless it's in the cargo bay. The aircraft came with a limited order book, about 184 frames at last count.

Overweight. It's been reported by Financial Times Deutschland as cited by AFP that the aircraft is 12 tons overweight and the payload is 4 tons less than advertised.

Over budget. The initial order book was for 20 billion euros for approximately 180 airframes more or less, and it now seems that the project is over budget by anywhere from 5 billion to 11.2 billion euros depending on who you believe. In addition, Airbus has asked that the contracting governments ante up 5 billion euros to cover cost overruns on the project, essentially trying to renegotiate a fixed price contract it had the bad fortune to sign. The folks from Price-Waterhouse-Coopers have audited the A400M program and concluded that the cost overruns could be anywhere between 7 billion euros and more.

Over due.
At the present time, the program is at least four years behind schedule. One of the major problems has been repeated delays with the engines-which anyone who's ever been involved in an engine development project could tell you was inevitable.

So....what could the buyers have gotten for the extra funding that they are about to have extorted out of them?

Depending on how much of a shellacking they're willing to take, anywhere from 25 to 45 brand new, shiny C-17 Globemaster IIIs.

And that's the price for European mee-tooism. The only question is whether and when Dandy Don Meridith will start tuning up the pipes for a chorus of "Turn out the lights, the party's over."


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