MADRID — Spain has withdrawn permission for test flights of Airbus A400M planes until an investigation determines the cause of a crash last weekend near the southern city of Seville that killed two pilots and two flight test engineers, Defence Minister Pedro Morenes said Tuesday.
Speaking on Onda Cero radio, Morenes said, “it’s not a good idea for those planes in production phase, and about to do tests, to fly without knowing what really happened with the (crashed) plane.”
He said all precautions must be taken.
The measure means that planes in the final stages of assembly in Seville will not be able to carry out test flights.
Morenes said he had no details on the investigation’s progress. He said that probes involving such planes are incredibly complicated and the need to know what happened as soon as possible should not interfere with the rigour necessary in a proper investigation.
He said both human and technological factors would be taken into account but added that the possibility that the pilot may have manoeuvred the plane in the final moments to avoid a more serious accident may provide some clue as to what happened.
“It appears that the pilot made a manoeuvr to try to avoid worse things happening in the accident,” Morenes said. He gave no further details.
Some media outlets on Monday cited Airbus Sevilla labour union representative Francisco Figueroa as saying that the pilot, by landing the plane in a field, apparently avoided crashing it into a nearby shopping mall and some factories.
The permit suspension will not affect a planned A400M test flight that is due to leave Toulouse, France at 2:30 p.m. (1230 GMT) Tuesday and land at Seville some two hours later.
Fernando Alonso, the head of military aircraft at Airbus Defence and Space, is expected to take part in the test as a flight engineer in a symbolic show of confidence in the plane.
Alonso took up his post in January, after Airbus dismissed his predecessor following complaints by governments about continued delays in finishing the cargo plane whose rollout went billions over budget and years over deadline.
Four of the five countries that already have A400Ms – Britain, Germany, Malaysia and Turkey – have grounded the plane. France, which has six, says it will only use the aircraft in urgent operations.
Seville is the final assembly point for the A400M – a 20-billion-euro program that saw its first deliveries in 2013. Some 194 aircraft have been ordered by eight countries – including Spain – to replace their aging Hercules fleets.
Also Tuesday, authorities were to hold a funeral Mass in Seville for the four dead.