Spain is allowing Airbus A400M test flights again after the fatal crash that killed four Airbus employees on 9 May in Sevilla. The flights were suspended following the crash and subsequent investigation. Meanwhile, Airbus is displaying the A400M at next week’s Paris Air Show, saying the company has full confidence in the aircraft.
After the crash, only development flight were allowed by Spain. These differ from production test flights, which are meant to test new aircraft coming of the production line. The A400M that crashed in May was a brand new aircraft for the Turkish Air Force and was performing its first flight.
The investigation team is focusing on engine-related software issues. According to reports, parts of the software may have been accidently deleted on the crashed aircraft.
The German Air doesn’t trust the A400M it got in April this year, or any the future airlifters it will get from Airbus, until something radically changes at the European aircraft manufacturer’s plant in Seville (Sevilla) in Spain.
According to document German leading opinion magazine Der Spiegel got, Luftwaffe technicians fear more software programming mistakes, as well as the lack of quality control on the technical parts as well. The German Air Force apparently found between 800 and 900 errors in the single A400M – a majority of which should have been found if Airbus had done proper quality control on the product it delivers.
The fears of the Air Force technicians now seem to get support … from Airbus. “We have a serious final assembly quality problem,” Airbus group’s chief of strategy Marwan Lahoud has now told the German daily business newspaper Handelsblatt, basing is findings on the preliminary reports of the black box transcripts of the 9 May crash. Although many say it is officially too early to tell, Airbus itself now thinks a sloppy placed Electronic Control Unit might have either contributed or have been the cause of the engine problems that led to accident.
Unfortunately, the Seville plant – where the A400M takes off from – is not the only one with this issue. Earlier the German Defence Ministry complained about the lack of quality control of the production of its Eurofighter EF2000/Typhoon, in which Airbus is the major share holder with 46 percent participation. Moreover, the problems with the NHIndustries NH90 – Airbus Helicopters holds a 62.5 percent share – are not fully over yet either.
Hopefully the investigation results in the crash of Airbus’ military flagship on 9 May in Spain will mean significant changes in how Airbus does things, and that the four lives of the crew on board were not lost in vain. A lack of quality control is known to cause problems in ship, car and train building as well, but a shocking and deathly crash like with the A400M due to possible fundamental construction process problems is something the European aircraft manufacturer cannot afford a second time. Big buyers Germany and France are already looking in options to buy Lockheed Martin C-130J Hercules aircraft instead.
As announced, Airbus Defence & Space flew the Airbus A400M again on Tuesday 12 May, three days after the tragic crash in Sevilla that killed four Airbus employees and seriously wounded two more. A company A400M flew from Toulouse to Seville during a 1 hours 50 minutes test flight.
The head of the Airbus military division, Fernando Alonso, was on board the aircraft. According to Alonso, the crews of the crashed aircraft ‘would have wanted A400M flight test to continue. Flight done. It’s our tribute.’ Airbus said the aircraft performed normally and all scheduled tests were completed.
Airbus on Sunday already said it would continue flying the transport aircraft, to show the company’s faith in the airplane. Airbus has not responded to claims that engines failures led to Saturday’s crash, which involved a brand new A400M on its first test flight. The aircraft was intended for delivery to Turkey.
Banned Meanwhile, Spanish authorities are said to have banned test flying with aircraft currenlty in production in Sevilla. The aircraft that flew today, is a development aircraft owned by Airbus.
The type is however still grounded by the air forces of the UK, Germany, Turkey and Malaysia. Airbus has promised full transparancy in the investigation into the fatal crash, but on the other hands has not released any formal press statements since Saturday.
The Airbus A400M that crashed on 9 May in Sevilla (Seville), Spain, may have suffered one or more engine failures. According to German magazine Der Spiegel, one of the two survivors told investigators about the problems. Four fellow crew members died in the accident, which has led to the grounding of A400M aircraft in Germany, the UK, Malaysia and Turkey.
Meanwhile, Airbus Defence & Space has said it will continue flight testing with the A400M, with the next flight scheduled for Tuesday. The crashed aircraft was about to perform its very first flight and was scheduled for delivery to the Turkish Air Force in June.
France has stated it continues to use all of its 6 Airbus A400Ms delivered so far, but only for ‘priority’ flights. The Armée de l’Air has been using the new transport aircraft to support operations in Mali.
UPDATED 10 MAY 2015 | An Airbus A400M military transport aircraft has crashed in Sevilla (Seville), Spain, on Saturday 9 May. The aircraft came down shortly after take off from Aeropuerto de Sevilla, where the Airbus A400M is produced. Four people are known to have died. Two more occupants were rushed to hospital with severe injuries, according to local authorities. Malaysia, Germany, Turkey and the UK have suspended A400M flights as a precaution.
The crash happened around 12.45pm local time at the start of a test flight, with the aircraft coming down in a field. Radar images suggest the aircraft took of from runway 09, turned left to the North, but kept turning left until impacting the ground to the Northeast of the airport. Images from the scene – see below – suggest the crew attempted landing in a field, but hit power lines sparking a fire.
Sevilla airport was closed immediately, with other flights being diverted. The accident is the second major military aviation incident in Spain this year, following the fatal crash of a Greek F-16 at Albacete in January.
Turkish Air Force
The A400M involved was the third destined for the Turkish Air Force and it was to perform its very first flight. Airbus on Saturday afternoon issued a statement on the crash. The complete statement:
“We confirm that there has been an accident with an A400M in Sevilla. At this point, we can confirm that the aircraft is MSN23, an aircraft foreseen for the Turkish customer. The crisis room is open. A Go-Team is on its way to Sevilla. We are coordinating with the relevant authorities. We will come back in due time with any confirmed information as soon as available.”
The accident, whatever the cause, is a devastating blow to the already troubled A400M project and Airbus. The A400M, which first flew on 11 December 2009, is plagued by teething problems, much to the dismal of the German Air Force.
Airbus took actions earlier this year to solve supply problems and speed up production. Changes were also made high in the Airbus Defense & Space organization. Airbus this week reported on tests with defensive systems on a UK A400M.
According to reports the Royal Air Force grounded its two A400Ms following the crash, with the Luftwaffe following suite with its sole A400M. Malaysia also stated it is suspending operations with its single A400M. No word about grounding (yet) of the A400Ms in service with France.
A total of twelve A400Ms are now in use with the air forces of France, the UK, Germany, Turkey and Malaysia. The type is set to replace large numbers of older C-130 Hercules C-160 Transall transport aircraft in these air forces. Belgium, Luxembourg and Spain have also ordered the A400M. The order total stands at 174, according to Airbus figures.