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Did computer bug cause A400M crash?

May 29, 2015

Did a software bug cause the fatal crash of an Airbus military transport plane in Spain earlier this month? Analysis of the flight recorders suggests as much. But the group says it's too early to draw any conclusions.

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Image: Eric Cabanis/AFP/Getty Images

A computer glitch may have been the reason four people lost their lives after an Airbus A400M crashed just minutes into a test flight north of Seville's airport on May 9.

Initial analyses results of the flight recorders indicate that poorly installed software may have brought down the military cargo plane.

"The black boxes confirm it. There was no structural fault, but we have a serious final assembly quality problem," Airbus group's chief of strategy Marwan Lahoud told the German business daily Handelsblatt in an interview appearing on Friday.

But the company's defense and space division cautioned it was still "too early to draw any conclusions from the accident," telling news agency AFP, "we will need the full results of the investigation in order have the full picture."

"Like all accidents, it will certainly be a combination of issues and not one single cause."

More red flags

However, an internal test which Airbus conducted independently of the investigation earlier this month flagged similar technical shortcomings. It warned of a bug in the Electronic Control Units (ECU), which control how the A400M's engines operate.

An expert, speaking on condition of anonymity, told AFP that such glitches could indeed lead to a loss of control of engine power and the plane crashing.

Airbus' admission marks a dramatic new turn in the attempt to reconstruct what when wrong on May 9. Just last week, Europe's leading aircraft manufacturer denied suggestions that construction issues led to the deadly accident.

The disaster prompted five countries - Britain, Germany, Malaysia, Spain and Turkey - to ground their planes, as long as the Spanish-led investigation is still ongoing. The group, however, insists that other A400M aircrafts currently in service have all subject to check and are "100 percent protected from this failure."

pad/uhe (AFP, dpa)