Airbus's new A400M military transport plane crashed on Sunday during a test flight killing four people aboard

Airbus military cargo planes grounded after deadly test flight crash

Fleets of Airbus’ new military cargo plane A400M have been grounded after an aircraft crashed during a test flight in Spain, killing four people aboard.

The plane, a four-engine turboprop, was performing its maiden flight before a planned delivery to Turkey.

According to French newspaper El Pais, the aircraft crashed into a pylon about 1.6km from the San Pablo airport in Seville while attempting an emergency landing.

Airbus has sent a team of investigators to the crash site, but refused to speculate on the causes of the disaster. Spanish investigators have said they have recovered the two flight recorders.

Tracking data from the Flightradar24 web site indicate that the plane had wheeled to the left before coming down.

Six people were on board the aircraft at the time of the crash. Two were killed immediately, with another two transported to hospital with severe injuries.

The incident marks the first ever crash of an A400M, a tactical airlifter designed by European aerospace giant Airbus to replace older transport aircraft, such as the Transall C-160 and the Lockheed Martin C-130 Hercules. In addition to transporting military cargo, the aircraft can also perform electronic surveillance and aerial refuelling.

The project, marred with delays and cost overruns, faced cancellation in 2010 and was only saved thanks to an intervention by European governments. It finally entered service in 2013.

In the aftermath of the crash Britain, Germany and Malaysia said they were grounding their fleets of A400M, pending the results of the investigation. France said it would keep its planes flying.

So far, six NATO nations - Britain, Belgium, France, Germany, Luxembourg and Turkey - have purchased A400Ms. The total order worth €20bn was the biggest single military contract for Airbus.

"An incident like this is not the best for our industry,” said Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy. “It remains to be seen if it was purely circumstantial or if a mistake was made."

A400Ms, which sell for over €100m each, are assembled in Spain.

Problems in delivering the planes on time with all the required military features on board resurfaced last year, triggering a management shake-up and more financial charges.

After receiving stinging criticism from both Germany and Turkey over the delays, Airbus hoped it was finally turning the corner, with an executive saying last week that it hoped soon to get a second export customer soon. The first export customer was Malaysia, which bought four planes.

Airbus said it plans to resume test flights on Tuesday. Further disruption would likely lead to more delivery delays.

Shares of the Airbus Group fell on Monday in the wake of the crash by 3.8 per cent to 61 euros in morning trading.

"Airbus can ill afford more delays," Hamburg stockbroker Berenberg said in a note to investors.

"Longer term, this latest development will almost certainly hamper the ability to sell A400M in the export markets - the only way this programme will ever make any money."

The A400M is powered by the West's largest turboprop engines, supplied by Britain's Rolls-Royce, France's Safran, MTU Aero Engines of Germany and Spanish aerospace firm Industria de Turbo Propulsores (ITP).

Airbus A400M infographic

Airbus A400m crash infographic  

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