Spain's DA6 in first Eurofighter crash

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Telemetry equipment carried on aircraft will aid inquiry

Eurofighter lost its first aircraft on 21 November as EADS Casa-operated two-seat development aircraft DA6 crashed near Toledo, Spain.

DA6 took off from the EADS Casa facility at Getafe, near Madrid, and was flying straight and level at 45,000ft (13,725m)and Mach 0.7 when the two engines shut down. The pilots attempted to relight the engines, but failed and subsequently ejected. The aircraft crashed in the Poligono de Pruebas de Anchura military test range near Toledo at 12:15, 15min after take-off, around 110km (70 miles) from Getafe.

The aircraft was flown by EADS Casa chief test pilot Eduardo Cuadrado and Spanish air force official test centre test pilot Maj Ignacio Lombo. Neither was hurt.

DA6 - EADS Casa's sole development aircraft - was dedicated to two-seater care-free handling clearance and systems tests, as well as climate trials. It had flown 324h over 340 test flights.

Although the Spanish defence ministry issued a statement saying the engines shut down simultaneously, Eurofighter is cautious about blaming the engines. "We have to understand the chain of events leading to the accident," it says.

DA6 was fitted with telemetry equipment relaying aircraft data to the flight-test centre at Getafe. This will be used by the inquiry team which issued a preliminary report to the national armament directors late last week.

Although it is not unusual to lose a development aircraft during military aircraft flight-test programmes - most of the current fighters have suffered at least one loss during evaluation- the accident was ill-timed for Eurofighter, which is poised to complete the maiden flights of the first four production fighters, one of which is due to be handed to each partner nation in December.

Flying was suspended for at least the first 24h after the accident, although Eurofighter was not grounded. Any decision to ground the aircraft will be taken by NETMA, the four-nation government management agency.