At least four killed in Spain military air crash

9th May 2015, Comments 0 comments

At least four people were killed when an Airbus A400M military plane crashed near Seville airport in southern Spain during a test flight, the first fatal incident involving the new transport craft.

Andalusia's regional prefect Antonio Sanz said a burnt body had been found in the wreckage, raising the death toll to four. A spokeswoman for the emergency services had earlier reported at least three dead and two seriously injured.

She said the authorities were still trying to establish how many people were on the plane when it went down in a non-residential area around a mile from the airport.

The airport was closed to traffic for about an hour after the crash. A thick plume of black smoke was seen in the vicinity of the airport.

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, who received the news on a campaign visit to Tenerife, one of the Canary Islands, spoke of "eight to 10 people on board."

The prime minister, who was due to visit the crash scene later Saturday, expressed his condolences to the victims, Spanish news agencies reported.

Aviation sources confirmed the plane was one of the new A400M troop and vehicle transporters manufactured by European aerospace group Airbus.

Airbus Defence and Space, the Airbus division responsible for military aircraft, said the plane was destined for Turkey, but did not immediately say how many people were aboard.

The group sent a team of experts to the crash scene.

If confirmed as an accident, it would be the first since the plane, which is assembled at a factory in Seville, went into service.

- Beset by problems -

The first A400M was delivered to France in 2013, with subsequent planes sold to Turkey, Britain, Germany and Malaysia.

The A400M programme has been beset by problems since it was launched in 2003.

In addition to production and delivery delays, the programme ran 30 percent -- or 6.2 billion euros ($7 billion) -- over budget.

In 2010, Airbus mulled scrapping the entire project amid doubts about its financial viability.

In the end the A400M programme was maintained, but not without renewed troubles.

Shortly after Germany took delivery of its first A400M last January -- four years late -- Der Spiegel published a list of 875 construction errors or malfunctions detected in the plane.

In January Airbus Group president Tom Enders offered an apology to British officials for continued delays for seven A400M craft earmarked for delivery in 2015.

Enders described industrial reasons for the delays as "not catastrophic" but sufficiently "embarrassing" to merit remedial measures.

- 'Technological gem' -

Airbus -- which was previously forced to set aside 551 million euros from 2014 earnings to pay for continued delays -- has yet to reveal a promised new delivery schedule for A400M planes.

Yet Airbus still has high hopes for the aircraft, which is reaching the market just as its main US rivals are nearing the end of their life cycles -- notably the C-130, which was designed 50 years ago.

A total of 174 A400M planes have been ordered, including 50 by France, 53 by Germany, 27 by Spain and 22 by Britain.

Powered by four turbo-prop engines, the A400M is designed to transport troops and material, including armoured vehicles and helicopters, over great distances at high speeds.

Capable of transporting up to 37 tonnes over 3,300 kilometres, the A400M is still nimble enough to land on irregular terrain.

Though Saturday's crash was the first involving the aircraft, it is the second deadly accident involving military planes in Spain this year.

During NATO exercises on January 26, a Greek fighter jet experienced technical failure during takeoff and crashed into pilots and mechanics on the ground, killing 11 people and injuring 21.

Following Saturday's crash, Spanish political parties announced suspension of their campaigning for May 24 regional elections out of respect for the victims.

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© 2015 AFP

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