More evidence of the apparent disrespect for quality checks at the Airbus A400M manufacturing plant in Seville (Sevilla) in Spain – at least on the aircraft produced so far – has come to light this week. The issues are that serious that the German Air Force is going to keep its ancient C-160D Transall airlifters airborne into the next decade.
According to Luftwaffe inspection reports leaked to German media like Der Spiegel magazine, very important bolts that hold the big and very essential rudder of the aircraft show defects that are a direct result of problems during the assembly that should normally have been seen during routine quality checks. So far the defects are only confirmed on the single Luftwaffe A400M, as the French, British and Malaysian air forces have so far not given information on the matter.
The rear end of the A400M already has given the Germans unpleasant surprises. During flight tests in April this year the Luftwaffe A400M crew heard repeatedly strange noises in the tail section of the plane. When investigating the matter further they found a plastic bag with screws left behind by a mechanic on the inside of part of the tail section.
Not trusting the Airbus product Berlin has now made an alternative plan to keep the Air Force providing enough airlift in the near future: as reported earlier here on Airheadsfly.com, the aging C-160 Transalls will have to soldier on until at least 2021, costing the tax payers 300 million euro extra and keeping Hohn Airbase in the north of the country open as C-160D location.
The numbers 1, 2 and 3 engine of the Airbus A400M that crashed on Saturday 9 May in Sevilla, Spain, experienced a power freeze immediately after take off, according to a Accident Information Transmission (AIT) issued by Airbus Defence and Space on 2 June. This AIT informs that the digital flight data recorder and CVR readouts have been successfully completed and that preliminary analysis has been conducted.
Investigators confirm that engines 1, 2 and 3 experienced a stuck power setting after lift-off and did not respond to the crew’s attempts to control the power setting in the normal way, whilst engine 4 responded to throttle demands. When the power levers were set to “flight idle” in an attempt to reduce power, the power reduced but then remained at “flight idle” on the three affected engines for the remainder of the flight despite attempts by the crew to regain power.
The aircraft crashed a short distance from Sevilla airport, hitting a power line first. Four people died in the crash, while two others were taken to hospital in serious condition. The aircraft was almost totally consumed by fire. An engine problem was suspected soon afterwards, as reported here on Airheadsfly.com.
Preliminary analyses have shown that all other aircraft systems performed normally. Accordingly, Airbus Defence and Space does not have any additional specific recommendations, other than the Alert Transmission Operator (AOT) already issued on 19 May. That AOT told all A400M operators to inspect the Electronic Control Unit (ECU) on all engines.
The problem by have been caused by incorrect installation of software during final assembly of the A400M concerned, which was destined for Turkey. Airbus Defence & Space has stated it is battling quality control issues in the A400M’s final assembly.
According to Airbus, the investigation continues and further updates will be given if significant new information becomes available.
The first production Airbus Military A400M new generation airlifter for the Turkish Air Force (Türk Hava Kuvvetleri; TAF) has made its maiden flight on August 9, 2013. The aircraft, known as MSN9, took off from Seville, Spain, at 13:56 local time and landed back in Seville 5 hours and 30 minutes later.
The A400M programme for the TAF is also making good progress at the Airbus Military International Training Centre at Seville, where Turkish pilots, loadmasters, and maintenance technicians have already begun their training. Turkey has ordered 10 A400M tactical transport aircraft.