Airbus orders checks on A400M engine system after crash

An Airbus A400M approaches for landing in the first test flight after another A400M crashed on May 9, 2015, at the San Pablo airport in Seville, Andalusia, Spain on May 12. Airbus Defence & Space on Tuesday ordered engine software checks on the A
An Airbus A400M approaches for landing in the first test flight after another A400M crashed on May 9, 2015, at the San Pablo airport in Seville, Andalusia, Spain on May 12. Airbus Defence & Space on Tuesday ordered engine software checks on the A400M aircraft following the crash Europe's new military transporter. -- PHOTO: EPA

PARIS (REUTERS) - Airbus Defence & Space on Tuesday ordered engine software checks on the A400M aircraft following a recent crash of Europe's new military transporter.

The request comes after the discovery of a potential anomaly in the system running the plane's turboprop engines.

However, one person familiar with the findings said evidence gathered so far appeared to suggest a "quality" problem rather than a fundamental design flaw.

Four crew members were killed when an A400M crashed in Spain on May during a pre-delivery flight test.

Airbus said it had issued an alert asking air forces to examine the plane's 'Electronic Control Unit' before the next flight.

The unit controls the engines and is part of a suite of software systems that were partly blamed for earlier delays and cost overruns in building the troop and cargo carrier.

Additionally, nations operating the plane must carry out other checks whenever this unit or an engine is replaced. "To avoid potential risks in any future flights, Airbus Defence and Space has informed the operators about necessary actions to take," a statement said.

The call for engine-related checks confirms an earlier Reuters report.

So far, few if any clues have emerged from the 'black box' flight recorders, at least one of which has been sent to the United States for examination.

The potential area of concern was discovered by Airbus in its own review. "It is a precautionary measure which is part of our continued airworthiness activities," the spokeswoman said.

The Airbus A400M was developed at a cost of 20 billion euros in Europe's largest defence project.

It is powered by the West's largest turboprop engines, designed by Britain's Rolls-Royce, France's Safran and MTU Aero Engines of Germany.

Problems in developing the engines, and particularly in certifying the engine control software, contributed to three years of delays and a new cash injection by governments in 2010.

The Electronic Control Unit is one of two pieces of complex software that make up the engine control system, or FADEC, whose development was led by Munich-based MTU Aero Engines.

The crash came amid new delays in fitting the aircraft with military systems and raised further questions over the timing of deliveries after Spain suspended pre-delivery test flights.

Airbus has said the deliveries are "under review".

The A400M has been delivered so far to Britain, France, Germany, Turkey and Malaysia, which is so far the only export customer. Other buyers include Belgium, Luxembourg and Spain.