May 13, 2015

Spain halts Airbus A400M test flights pending crash cause

Spain on Tuesday withdrew permission for test flights of Airbus A400M military transport planes that are still in production until an investigation determines the cause of a deadly weekend crash.
The move, announced by Defense Minister Pedro Morenes, sparked new uncertainty about planned deliveries of the cargo plane to national militaries that have ordered it by the dozens.
In a statement, Airbus said it was too early to say how Spain's decision would affect the delivery schedule for the planes, and it was working with military authorities and customers "to manage the situation."
"It's not a good idea for those planes in the production phase and about to do tests to fly without knowing what really happened with the (crashed) plane," Morenes said in an interview.
Spain's air traffic controllers said on Twitter that the pilots had communicated just before the crash that an unspecified problem was affecting the flight.
The pilot evaded a much worse disaster by landing the plane in a field, avoiding a possible crash into a nearby shopping mall or factories.
Morenes said the permits were being temporarily rescinded by Spain's National Institute for Aerospace Technique, which means that A400Ms in final stages of assembly cannot go on test flights.
Morenes declined to provide initial findings of the crash investigation, stressing that the probe will be complicated. Also, a judge in Seville in charge of the crash probe ordered that it must be conducted in secret.
Separately Tuesday, Airbus sought to promote the plane's safety by conducting a test flight of another A400M. The plane flew safely from Toulouse, France, to Seville.
That flight was not affected by Spain's halt on test flights because the plane owned by Airbus is a test plane not scheduled for delivery.
Fernando Alonso, who heads Airbus Defense and Space, took part as a flight engineer in a symbolic show of confidence.
Four of the five countries that already have A400Ms — Britain, Germany, Malaysia and Turkey —grounded the plane after the crash. France, which has six, says it will only use the aircraft in urgent operations.

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