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Airbus set to ditch A400M plane

FRANKFURT, Jan 5 – The head of European plane maker Airbus is preparing to ditch its A400M military transport project which is bogged down in talks with clients, a German press report said on Tuesday.

Thomas Enders reportedly told a group of Airbus directors last month he "no longer believed in pursuing the programme" and had begun to prepare for it to be terminated, the Financial Times Deutschland said.

Lists of engineers to be transferred from the A400M to the development of two other key aircraft, the A380 superjumbo and the A350, have already been drawn up, the newspaper added.

Airbus and its parent group, the European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company (EADS), have been in discussions over cost overruns for several months with seven countries that were to buy the transport plane.

A total of 120 aircraft had been ordered for around 20 billion euros (29 billion dollars) but clients are being asked to pony up billions more to cover unexpected costs.

The newspaper said Enders estimated the chances of reaching an agreement at around 50-50.

And the German boss "is not ready to threaten the civil aviation division, which is doing well, just for the A400M," a source close to the matter was quoted as saying.

The plane made its maiden flight on December 11 in Spain, but deliveries are at least three years behind schedule.

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