Disaster struck the A400M programme on 9 May, when an aircraft due to be delivered to the Turkish air force in June crashed shortly after starting its first flight from Airbus’s final assembly site in Seville. Four of the six flight-test personnel on board the military transport tragically lost their lives.

The European programme was already beset with problems around meeting in-service schedules and the introduction of promised operating capability, but the accident came as a huge and visible shock to Airbus’s recently installed head of military aircraft – himself an experienced flight-test engineer on the type.

Fernando Alonso, like Airbus Group chief executive Tom Enders, should be commended for his dignified and respectful handling of a terrrible situation, which put the needs of the bereaved families first. Also of note were the messages of condolence left by other major manufacturers, including Boeing and Bombardier – to name just two.

Alonso has pledged full transparency in support of the Spanish military-led investigation into the loss of MSN23. Airbus respectfully returned an A400M test aircraft to the sky four days after the crash, and says it has received no evidence that the type is unsafe to fly.

Spain’s military authorities are being more cautious, however, halting other pre-delivery flights for now. Only time will tell which approach is the right one.

Source: Flight International